The Janus School in Mount Joy — an independent day school that serves kindergarten through 12th-grade students with learning disabilities — plans to begin its Transitions program in July. The goal is to help Janus graduates and others move successfully from high school to college, an apprenticeship or a fulfilling job. Transitions is scheduled to start with a four-week orientation and then run throughout the school year, with tuition set at $14,900. Janus will begin accepting applications Feb. 1.
What’s next? It’s a question every high school and college graduate must answer. For young adults with or without learning difficulties, the answer to that question can be complicated, and the path to true independence can be long and winding.
According to the numbers, if young adults are armed only with a high school diploma when they venture into the world, they will struggle financially. On average, according to the Economic Policy Institute, college graduates earn 56 percent more than high school grads. That’s the widest education pay gap on record.
Programs like Transitions at Janus (which is not just for Janus graduates) offer students an opportunity to close that gap. As Transitions posts on its Facebook page, it will be a place for students to “enrich themselves with experiential learning, to be with peers as they continue to develop their sense of self, to receive guidance within a supportive community, and to network with the larger community as they make the big decisions about ‘what's next?’ ”
There is opportunity out there.
Transitions cites a Forbes.com article that examines the employment landscape for adults with autism and other developmental and learning differences.
Author Michael Bernick looked at initiatives “Autism at Work” and other targeted hiring and retention efforts by large employers.
“Microsoft’s ‘Autism at Work’ initiative has been the highest profile effort in 2016 by a major employer, targeting recruitment of adults on the spectrum and retention structures,” Bernick wrote. “But 2016 also has seen the growth of the Autism at Work initiative by software giant SAP, as well as targeted autism employment initiatives at several other prominent tech firms: Salesforce, Google, Cable Labs, Hewlett Packard and CollabNet.”
Transitions will also help prepare young people for apprenticeships and careers in the trades. Well-paying trade jobs are available, which is why the Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, a state-owned, two-year technical college, can build a $20 million manufacturing center in Lancaster city’s Southeast section. According to Stevens, last spring, more than 800 companies with 2,400 job openings were competing for its 350 graduates.
As LNP reported Friday, Janus is reaching out to area educational and training organizations, trying to assemble a broad range of options for students. It has already secured an affiliation with Associated Builders & Contractors, Keystone Chapter.
Helping young people with learning difficulties move on, as seamlessly as possible, to college or an apprenticeship so they can earn a good living and achieve independence is no small accomplishment. But, if successful, it will not be Transitions’ only achievement.
Transitions developers are careful to point out that theirs is not only a model for those with learning differences.
The statistics show pretty clearly that just because a student is academically qualified for college doesn’t necessarily mean he is ready to handle independence. According to the National Student Clearinghouse, an education nonprofit, only 52.9 percent of students who enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities in the fall of 2009 completed school within six years.
The Transitions program will highlight the void that exists between high school and what we adults call “real life.”
Talk to any college counselor and you will learn that students, (not only those with learning challenges) particularly freshmen, struggle with things like getting out of bed on time, money management, organization and prioritizing tasks.
In a 2015 New York Times article, psychotherapist Lisa Damour wrote, “Let’s not equate college admission with college readiness. The skills needed to graduate from high school and get into college have surprisingly little in common with those needed to manage, much less thrive, away from home in an undergraduate setting.”
We support and applaud any program that better prepares young people to live productive, independent lives. And we hope Transitions will inspire educators to re-evaluate how they are preparing young people for adulthood.
Janus administrators said parents have been asking for a bridge. We commend them for building one, and for ensuring that their young people will be ready for what’s on the other side.