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Fletcher Miller School, a Jefferson County Public School in Lakewood, Colorado, has been working with significantly impacted youth since 1963. According to its website, the school’s mission is to “provide access to a high-quality education…that prepares students for a lifetime of learning.” Although the school serves students ages 3-21, the group that attended Young AmeriTowne was between the ages of 14 and 21. The program helped Fletcher Miller students develop job and money management skills in a real-world setting.
Older students were working on their transition IEP (individualized education plan), and AmeriTowne provided an opportunity to practice job skills. These youth, ages 19-21, are learning what a job application is, how to get dressed for work, and about the responsibility and rewards that accompany a job. Teachers allowed students to pick the jobs they wanted by filling out a job application at school. In Towne, the job placements seemed perfect: TV Station Reporter Josh loved being in front of the camera, and Medical Center Doctor Tristian enjoyed caring for other people when they were sick.
Communication is another goal of Fletcher Miller School, and the AmeriTowne experience facilitated real-world communication scenarios for all students who attended. At Fletcher Miller, each student has his or her own, customized communication system. For example, many students use “companion books,” picture books that allow non-verbal students to point to words they want to say. A few non-verbal students have computers that read eye movements if they have physical limitations preventing them from pointing. For Speech Therapist Ali Connell, AmeriTowne is a great way for her students to practice communication in a real-world setting. Her goal is for every student to graduate with a way to provide an independent “yes” or “no” answer, even if they are in a new environment or interacting with a new person. AmeriTowne also allows teachers to introduce a new vocabulary in a realistic setting so that students can better grasp words such as job and paycheck.
AmeriTowne On the Road Director Susan Stenhaug worked with Fletcher Miller staff in advance to adapt the curriculum and the AmeriTowne experience for their students. However, she was surprised by how normal the day felt. “Students had a lot of responsibility,” she said. “I saw students counting money, depositing their paychecks, purchasing snacks, delivering mail, and creating a newspaper—all things you would see in a typical day. I am really proud that we could teach these students about the real world and show them that they can have an important role to play.”