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#SAISDSmart: Young Adults Grow Valuable Skills in SAISD 18+ Vocational Program

As you walk into local coffee shop The Bearded Barista and pick up your freshly brewed, specialty coffee from the bar, you’ll be greeted by a smiling Grayson Chapa working to assist the baristas in making your coffee, greeting customers, and providing for a welcoming and clean environment. Grayson is one of over 30 students currently enrolled in San Angelo ISDs 18+ vocational program where student smartness flourishes. 

The 18+ vocational program is a Texas Education Agency (TEA) approved work and academic program designed to assist young adults, ages 18 to 22, with neurological and emotional differences transitioning from high school to successful employment through relationship-centered education. Academic training and employment experiences are combined to provide a balanced learning opportunity where students gain independence, career understanding and valuable employment skills. 

“We have these amazing young people who have a disability but it's not who they are, it doesn't define them as a person. They're so much more than autism, they’re so much more than down syndrome, they’re so much more than a speech impairment,” said Jordan Burrell, Vocational Adjustment Coordinator at SAISD. “They have so much to offer our community and we want them to see themselves as more than a label. We want them to empower them in every way possible to make that happen.”  

A day in the life of a student enrolled in the 18+ vocational program includes spending two to three class periods per day within an academic class called Life 101 designed to teach employment readiness and independent life skills. Through a personal and relational curriculum, this program offers academic support and employability classes to support a transition to successful adulthood including writing resumes, filling out competitive job applications, life and technology skills, support for social-emotional wellbeing, and independence and self care skills such as cooking healthy meals. Students also intern with a local organization for part-time, vocational experience, something that is or looks like a part-time job, to complete career exploration and plan for post-secondary education. 

San Angelo ISD extends a special thanks to our community partners who help make this program a reality by providing vocational and on the job training for our students. Without your assistance, San Angelo ISD would be unable to provide our students a diverse range of internship opportunities which often turn into employment opportunities. 

  • Angelo State University
  • Arbor Terrace Healthcare System
  • Buttercup All Day Cafe
  • Concho Valley Regional Food Bank
  • Gandy Ink
  • Happy Trails
  • House of Faith
  • Meals for the Elderly
  • Northstar Remodeling and Construction
  • Olive Garden
  • Pregnancy Help Center
  • Rust Street Ministries
  • Shannon Medical Center
  • The Bass Bunch
  • The Bearded Barista
  • The Carriage
  • The YMCA
  • Walgreens
  • Wyndham Hotels and Resorts

The 18+ vocational program is a welcoming, joyful, and intentional program created to make each student understand they are accepted and cherished through celebrating the individual student's smartness by building strong relationships between the staff, students and the community. The heart of the program is the heart of our “why” at SAISD, in which all students receive a relevant and inspiring education which prepares them for their future, whatever that may be. While enrolled in our 18+ program, social relationships flourish, academic growth continues beyond high school, and professional and employment skills are taught and practiced to foster the growth toward becoming successful, independent, and happy individuals. 

“We are so proud of our students in the 18+ program! They work diligently to achieve their individual postsecondary goals with the guidance and leadership from our amazing staff and the wonderful opportunities provided by our community partners,” said Dian Underwood, Director of Special Programs. “Our staff do an amazing job focusing on the skills needed to transition from school to adult life based on input from all stakeholders, most importantly from the student and their parents.”  

Throughout the school year, SAISD will be sharing ways we are celebrating our students for following their individual hopes and dreams through hands-on, collaborative learning experiences that challenge students to think critically through various design challenges. Follow the San Angelo ISD Facebook, Twitter, and website, www.saisd.org/smart, to stay up-to-date and to find out more about how we are celebrating our students' smartness. Students, families, staff, and community members are encouraged to share how their students are smart through the hashtag, #SAISDSmart.