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Life decisions

Transition fair helps students with disabilities plan for the future

Shaker High School has a program to help students with disabilities make plans for life after graduation.

Shaker will hold its annual transition fair on Thursday, Nov. 14, for students with disabilities and their parents to help plan for a structured life of further education and employment after high school.

“The idea is to get parents and students in so they can meet and connect with different agencies,” said Shaker director of pupil services Dave Semo.

The program began approximately five years ago with a grant from the New York State Department of Education, and Semo said it has helped countless students with disabilities.

Students with a wide range of challenges and disabilities need to make plans for adult life. Options range from day treatment and residential services to trade schools and vocational services.

Semo said getting ready early is best because programs sometimes fill up.

“You don’t want to wait until you’re a senior because a lot of these programs have waiting lists, so we encourage parents and students to start planning early,” said Semo. Shaker encourages students as young as 12 years old and their parents to attend the transition fair to start exploring their options, he added.

“We are very proud of the program and how much it helps the students,” said Semo.

Heather Hanrahan, a chairwoman on the Transition Fair Committee who is in her third year working on the transition fair, contacts the different agencies to get them to attend. She said there are usually 20 to 30 different agencies and support services at the fair.

“It’s a really good opportunity for family, students and faculty to gain knowledge on opportunities and services to plan for their future as they age out of the system,” said Hanrahan.

Hanrahan also works as a special education teacher in a joint project between Shaker and Siena College. The program helps students from 18 to 21 years old participate in vocational programs. At Siena, they work in food services, the sports complex and the IT department.

Some of the agencies that attended the transition fair last year were Northeast Career Planning, Center for Disability Services, Center for Independence, New Visions, Bryant & Stratton, Modern Welding, Mildred Elley, Career and Technical School and Parent to Parent of NYS and HVCC.

The fair starts at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 14 and will be held in the LaFollette Dining Hall at Shaker High School. Parents with questions are invited to contact the pupil services department at 785-5511.

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