New special education program

Huntley transition program aims to ready special ed grads for adulthood
By Tara Garcia Mathewson

Tess Podraza

Tess Podraza, 18, will be part of the inaugural group of LIGHT students in Huntley High School’s latest transition program for special ed graduates. Photo by Brian Hill.

Huntley High School special education student Tess Podraza, 18, wants to be more independent, but to reach that level she’ll need more confidence and sharper life skills.

She and her family hope a new program through Huntley Area School District 158 will give her both.

Life Instruction Guiding Huntley Transition is designed to give Tess and her peers support and preparation for the adult world. As special education students, they are entitled to public school services until they turn 22.

“Once they have completed their graduation requirements, we really want them to move out of the high school, just to have them feel like they graduated,” said Liz Kienzle, the program’s creator. “We’re not teaching U.S. history or science anymore. We’re doing functional academics, but it’s going to be very life-based.”

High school graduation is a scary time for young adults with special needs and their families. Access to state funding is based on a lottery that sometimes leaves people with disabilities waiting years to take advantage of services.

The program aims to ease the transition, preparing students who will be able to hold jobs with skills to do so and introducing many to the social services they’ll need throughout their adult lives.

Read the full story here.

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