More than 400 students with special needs from local schools took part in the 10th annual Transition Fair on Friday morning on the Imperial Valley College campus.
The fair is held in partnership between Imperial Valley College, Imperial County Special Education Local Plan Area and the San Diego Regional Center.
The transition fair began 10 years ago as an effort to give special education students in the Valley who are juniors or seniors in high school the opportunity to obtain information about adult and training programs available for them after high school.
“The goal is to get the students exposed to the IVC campus, help them see the different options that they have, the vocational training they can participate in and also agencies that can provide the support for them,” said Employment Developer for SELPA Sylvia Lemus.
Most of the students had the opportunity to take part in campus tours to get familiar with the IVC and the services available.
The students also had the opportunity to learn more about the services that IVC Disabled Student Programs and Services has at its disposal, financial aid and its process and vocational training opportunities with the Center for Employment Training.
“The breakout sessions are coordinated with the intention of letting students know what is available on and off campus,” Lemus said. “Our goal is to help them prepare for employment, be able to be prepared so that when they go to the workforce they can be successful.”
The wealth of information that the students can get from the fair is something that teachers feel is extremely valuable as the student start to consider different possibilities for a career path.
“It is amazing the students get to meet with the agencies face to face. All of our needs are different and the students can at their leisure meet with the people they want to learn more about,” said Jarene Schneider, a special education teacher at Holtville High School. “Teachers can also get information for students needs and bring those agencies into the classroom. It really makes a difference.”
Ernesto Hernandez, a junior from Southwest High School, took advantage of the fair to approach a representative of the U.S. Navy and was pleased to find out that they offered a career path that aligns with what he intends to do.
“I’m trying to get a career in welding, that’s why I’m here,” he said. “They (the Navy) have welding careers so I became interested in them.”
In the 10 years since the fair has being held the amount of students and schools that participate has grown exponentially.
Lemus said that the first year the fair had 20 agencies, 42 students and two breakout sessions. This year the fair had more than 400 students and more than 40 agencies participating.
Schneider said that on top of the impressive growth of the event one of the things that she has observed is the enthusiasm from the students to take advantage of the opportunity.
“At the beginning of the school year they start asking when it is going to be,” Schneider said. “It’s an event they look forward to get information. It’s very rewarding to watch the students grow and get an idea of what they want to do after high school.”
After all the sessions and visit with the agencies the students anxiously awaited the drawing of prizes.
A total of 61 prizes that were donated by members of the community, agencies and the college were given out to finish the day on a high note. Lemus said that last year 17 were given and said she was very thankful for the support from the community.
She said such a large event requires a lot of effort and coordination between agencies, schools and teachers who do an outstanding job with the students.
“Teachers play an important role. We’re fortunate to have people who honestly care about their students and their futures,” Lemus said. “Without them we couldn’t do this, the Imperial Valley is very fortunate, our special education directors are excellent. The partnership with the school districts is essential in order to make this successful.”
Staff Writer Edwin Delgado can be reached at email@example.com