If you were given a chance to travel across the state, and spend three days building job skills and meeting new people, would you go?

This past October, 30 transition students from school districts around Oregon were offered an opportunity to be part of a Statewide Student Summit in Hood River (pictured above). They weren’t sure what to expect—some students had never traveled without their families before, and some of them felt shy about participating.

“I was nervous about it,” admitted Nick Crane, from Redmond. “But it was a great experience. Anyone who can go to a Summit should definitely go!” he added.


Learning about jobs and about themselves

The goal of this intensive workshop was to empower students to plan for their futures and become leaders in their communities. The summit used a variety of hands-on activities, small-group sessions and cooperative games to build communication and employment skills. They also used the website Cognitopia to explore their own talents and goals. They worked on resumes, elevator pitches, and teamwork–and even experienced a mock interview with local business people.

The Hood River Inn not only hosted the Summit, but participated in it too: students learned about the hotel industry as they toured each department and talked with the hotel leaders and staff. While they found the chef to be most entertaining, other departments interested the students as well.

For example, learning about customer service at the front desk of the hotel made an impact on Isaiah Barker, a Redmond transition student. “I like to talk to people, and be helpful, and that’s important for a customer’s good first impression,” he said. Barker enjoys traveling and would like to work as a concierge in a nice hotel.

Nick Crane learned about the comptroller, who is responsible for payroll and accounting. “I like numbers, and I think I’d like that job,” he said. Crane was also proud of his ability to take care of another student, who became dizzy after using the hotel hot tub. Crane helped him to a seat, got him water and then found a teacher. “I learned I can stay calm in an emergency,” he explained.

Juan Ortega, also from Redmond, enjoyed the icebreakers and games that helped him get to know the other students. “There were a lot of new faces and new names, and the games helped me to remember.” Ortega also appreciated the practice interviews during the Summit – especially because the practice built his confidence for a real interview he had scheduled a few days after the Summit.


A teacher’s perspective

Kate Barker, one of the Redmond transition teachers who accompanied the students to the Summit, was impressed by her student’s participation and success. “I was so proud of them—they made amazing progress in those three days, and found new friends too. I hope each of our students is able to eventually participate in a Student Summit,” she said.

The 2019 Student Summit was organized by the Oregon Transition Technical Assistance Network (TTAN). In future years, the TTAN plans to hold Student Summits in different locations around the state. Interested transition teachers and students can learn more about upcoming Student Summits in their area by contacting Marguerite Blackmore, Autism Specialist and Transition Network Facilitator at marguerite.blackmore@hdesd.org.