PrairieWood Transition Center is a hidden gem of the Prairie community. PrairieWood is a hands on, community based learning opportunity for students with special education services at Prairie. PrairieWood Transition Center is located on the Kirkwood Community College campus. “We are kind of out of sight, out of mind,” Molly McGaffic, Special Education Teacher at PrairieWood said.
PrairieWood is a system of support for special education students focused on transition. The students have continued need for specially designed instruction in preparation for adulthood and the support is determined necessary to meet post secondary goals. “PrairieWood provides individualized supports and services to assist young adults with disabilities reach their greatest level of independence in the areas of living, learning and working”, Director of Student Services, Cheryl Kiburz says.
After graduation, a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) team may consider continued necessary special education services until age 21. In some cases, students continue until they go off into the community. Although the program is based at Kirkwood, “we are still very much a part of Prairie in the Prairie Pride sense,” McGaffic explained. “One of the focuses for PrairieWood students though, is to have interaction with same age peers. Being at Kirkwood, which mirrors the adult community, students are a part of a postsecondary community similar to the adult community they will transition to in the future.”
While at the transition center, students learn things from daily living skills to self-advocacy through hands on and community based learning. Students are provided opportunities to get work experiences on site at Kirkwood or in the community. For example, some students work at the Kirkwood Hotel to do laundry or work with the custodial staff to help clean the Kirkwood buildings. They also may go off and do things in the community like volunteering for the Cedar Rapids Public Library.
“We’re awesome people and working hard,” McGaffic expressed. PrairieWood is just one way bringing special education awareness to the community. “Just seeing and experiencing the changes in the way the system responds to learners with special needs, reminds me of the importance of advocacy efforts,” Kiburz states. “We want students to learn how to advocate for themselves while at the center.”
Tammy and Dave Perrin, parents of a student at PrairieWood believe that “having our son participate at PrairieWood helps take some pressure off of us to teach him these much needed skills.” After PrairieWood, students are more prepared and more successful in their life.
Students may transition to other living arrangements in the community after leaving PrairieWood. Some may live with family or some may live independently or with assistance. The goal is to assist in preparing our students to be contributing members of the community and have opportunities to work, volunteer and be part of the community in which they live.
The program strives to be unique in the fact they are community based as well as having a strong partnership with Kirkwood. PrairieWood provides an alternative educational opportunity for students who may need that extra step to get to their IEP goals as well as those daily living skills that lead to independence and self being.
Article Written By:
District Office Intern
Class of 2019