Transitions student Micah Fialka-Feldman enjoys the classes he takes at OU and also likes participating in college life.
By Rebecca Wyatt, OU Web Writer
The Transition program at OU helps developmentally challenged students answer the question “what next?” in preparing themselves for life. After three years on campus, the students, peer mentors and others close to the program can say the students have certainly grown and some are succeeding beyond their wildest expectations.
Transitions is a program run by Rochester Community Schools in conjunction with Oakland University to provide an age-appropriate setting as the students learn about the responsibilities of adult life. The program is an alternative to the basic life-skills program that is offered to many special education students after high school.
Rachael Kollman, who joined the program two years ago, said she has made friends, gotten a job and feels more confident in herself.
“Since starting the program, I have become so independent,” said Kollman. “I do things on my own more and I’m trying to avoid asking for help now.”
Getting a job at DEAF CAN as a receptionist has been one of Kollman’s biggest accomplishments.
“I love my job. It’s my favorite day of the week. I like school, but I enjoy being at work interacting with other people,” Kollman said.
Kollman isn’t the only student who has benefited from the Transition program. The five other students in the program have all grown in their own ways, and Program Director Brynn Lawrence, the paraprofessionals who work with the students and even the peer volunteers have seen the changes.
Theresa Vitale, CAS ’06, spent time with students from the Transitions program for the volunteer portion of one of her communications classes in the fall semester. She ended up volunteering more time in the winter semester because she found she really enjoyed it. During the fall semester, Vitale spent time with David Taylor, Micah Fialka-Feldman and Nathan Fischer playing basketball or other games in the Rec Center, reviewing notes, studying or just hanging out.
“Over time, they all grew in different ways,” said Vitale. “It was nice to see them try new things and become more sociable.”
Noah Edwards, a senior accounting major, came across a flier for the Transitions group while searching for volunteer opportunities for members of his fraternity, Beta Alpha Psi, and he decided to volunteer.
“Each Thursday, I got together with David and Nathan and we shot some hoops in the Rec Center,” said Edwards, who said they talked about life, school and even girls. “It was well worth it for those guys and myself. They are some of my closest friends now.”
The students in the program are active on campus. Taylor has a radio show at WXOU, Fischer plays in the pep band, Fialka-Feldman is in a number of student organizations and Kollman participates in the Center for Student Activities leadership activities.
The students sit in on classes like art history, music, political science, biology and theatre. Rather than taking tests, quizzes or writing long papers, the students do other projects like PowerPoint presentations.
The students also must work toward goals they set at the beginning of the program.
Matt Tower, who has been in the program for two years, set three goals for himself: Know the campus, get a job and become immersed in campus life. He has now accomplished all of those goals and feels ready to leave the program at the end of the year. Tower will continue at his job and pursue taking college courses for credit.
“I gained a lot of skills by sitting in on classes at OU,” said Tower. “I made some new friends in the classes here.”
Rochester Community Schools is currently examining the program and looking forward to enhancing the program and adding more students in the years to come. Even though a few students are leaving at the end of this year, there will be three more new students coming next year.
According to Lawrence, the program gives each student the college life experience and prepares them for the next stage of life, and OU has been instrumental in the process.
“Oakland University has been supportive since day one,” Lawrence said. “And the students have all grown from their experiences here.”
The program always is looking for peer mentors and volunteer opportunities for the students. For more information on the OU Transition Program, contact Brynn Lawrence at (248) 941-1188 or email@example.com.