Riding the Metro and shopping for healthy groceries on a budget can be daunting for everyone, but for individuals with learning disabilities, these life lessons are particularly challenging. On a recent Saturday, Marymount University student volunteers spent the day helping high school students with disabilities get a handle on these important skills.
Sponsored by the Arc of Northern Virginia and Marymount University, the workshop concluded this year’s series of Transition Boot Camps for these young adults, which also included practicing for job interviews. The Arc of Northern Virginia, a local affiliate of the national Arc, supports individuals and families living with cognitive, intellectual, and developmental disabilities. Marymount, a comprehensive Catholic university, offers undergraduate and graduate education programs in special education.
For several years, the ARC of Northern Virginia has conducted workshops primarily geared to parents whose children were about to age out of school-sponsored special needs programs. The focus has been to provide resource information on transition housing, legal guardianship, special needs trusts, and employment options -- basically everything that needs to be considered when caring for the long-term needs of a person with disabilities.
The success of the parent sessions highlighted the need for a comparable Student Transition Boot Camp, so the local Arc reached out for assistance to Marymount’s Education Department, and its students specializing in special education.
Diane Monnig, Arc of Northern Virginia Transition Program Manager and the coordinator of the workshops, said, “The Marymount response has been phenomenal. The students helped to plan and run the presentations on job interviews and life skills.” She added, “What I also find impressive is that the Marymount volunteers include general education, business, and psychology majors, as well as those preparing to be special education teachers.”
“It works both ways,” said Dr. Doug Ball, Marymount associate professor of education. “The workshops give our students a chance to interact with the young people they will be teaching and to develop the skills they’ll need to work with students of diverse needs, And It also provides the additional opportunity for interaction with the parents, which is an important aspect of teacher preparation.”
Elizabeth “Lizee” Mueller ’15, president of Marymount’s student chapter of the Council for Exceptional Children, echoed Dr. Ball’s comments. She said that the experience of working with students who have a range of disabilities, as well as talking with their parents, has really helped prepare her to teach young people with special needs.
Mueller explained, “For me, these workshops have validated that I am in the right career. The students attending these workshops remind me that every single person in this world is talented in their own unique way, and it is our job as teachers and future teachers to help bring out the talents and gifts of our students.”
Mollie Stewart and Katie Cheneler, both juniors majoring in multidisciplinary studies with special education teaching licensure (grades K-12), also found the workshops to be instructional and rewarding for all involved. Stewart said, “I think it shows the true value of the Marymount Education Department ─ that we really do care about making a difference.” Cheneler added, “This is a good way for Marymount to give back to the local community.”
1.Mollie Stewart ’15 leads presentation on life skills with workshop students.
2.Tim Plotner ’16, B.A. in History with Secondary Teaching Licensure, and Kelsey Christian,’17 B.A.in Multidisciplinary Studies with Special Education licensure, play life skills board game with students
3.Lizee Mueller ’15, B.A. in Multidisciplinary Studies with Special Education licensure, demonstrates a strong hand shake.
4.Hope Fisher, Marymount director of Student Access Services, role plays a job interview with a student.
5.Dr. Doug Ball, associate professor of Education, demonstrates introduction skills.