May 21, 2014 - Brandon Twp.- Lessons in the Brandon Post High classrooms don't look like lessons elsewhere in the district.
The students are a little older and their success isn't measured by grades or diplomas, but by gains in social interaction and independence, learning to cook, to garden, to make friends, to work.
On Tuesday, Jessika May moves clothes in one room at the Brandon Education Center, and waters plants in another room. Like the foliage, May is continuing to grow. Last year, she was a Brandon High School special education student. She didn't graduate with a diploma, but has moved on to the Post High program.
"I've learned to help out friends that are in trouble and having problems," said May when asked what she is learning here. "I'm good at helping out people who are having arguments. I like socializing with people here."
For May and 10 other students, it is their first year in the Brandon Post High program. In Michigan, special education is funded for students up to the age of 26 if they meet eligibility, but students residing in this district previously went to Holly to attend the post high program before this year. With the reconfiguration of buildings in the district, there is now room to house the post high at the former Belle Ann Elementary, and the program is here to stay, a benefit for students who can now work and learn in the community in which they live.
"It keeps me busy," said Dillon Brodkorb, 22, as he molds a lemon bar crust in a lesson on cooking. "I like constantly moving around and doing things to help people. There is nothing to do at home but sit around and transportation is given. It makes me feel good."
To attend Post High, students must have completed four years of high school, but without receiving a high school diploma, said Special Education Director Diane Zedan. In Post High, each student has an individual education plan to learn pre-vocational and vocational skills, communication and social skills, and leisure and recreational skills. They may also have on the job training at local work sites including ACE Hardware, the Groveland Fire Department, and Amazing Wings, which have chosen to partner with the district and help the students become productive, employable adults.
"The goal is to have each student be as independent as possible in the adult world," said Zedan. "For them, that might be working at a job and being paid, being a coach, volunteering in the community, or being paid per piece in a supported work center."
Steven Williams, 25, said he loves working at ACE, stocking shelves and cleaning tables. While the students don't receive pay for the work they do, Williams likes being rewarded with treats when he does his job efficiently.
"I've learned to get along with others, be mature, not interrupt others and to make eye contact," he said, smiling. "And not to clap so loud."
Brandon Post High employs one lead teacher, Lorretta Robinson, and one paraprofessional, John Timm. They are supported by a speech therapist and social worker.
"I've seen a lot of social growth in the students," said Robinson. "They have all learned some independence...I think often the expectations for special needs students are set too low and you have to find where each can be successful. In an individualized program like this, what they each get from an activity is very different. With cooking, for example, yes, they are learning to measure, but they are also learning to work together."
Zedan is hoping businesses in the community want to work with the program, too— offering a place for Post High students to hone employment skills.
"We're looking for employers willing to be a work training site," she said. "They would be helping young people in the community get training to be a good employee, with a job coach on site, while the students are doing a job task at that site, making better employees for the future, at no cost to the employer. They can teach them the right things to do and how to interact with customers and fellow employees."
For more information on the Brandon Post High Classroom and how you can help, call 248-627-1855.
Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville