INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A successful partnership between the Indianapolis Public School District and IUPUI will enter into its 13th year soon.
Skills for Independence, Transition and Employment – or SITE, for short – is the only program of its kind statewide. It’s a place where people with cognitive and physical disabilities can go after high school to more easily transition into adulthood.
“First of all what we know about people the students we serve, is that they learn most effectively and most efficiently in real-life situations,” said Gwen Chesterfield, SITE’s coordinator. “They're learning to navigate the world, make decisions, find their way around get places on time, go to classes, problem solve and meet new people.”
Kaleb Sims is 21 years old. He received a certificate of completion from IPS and will graduate from SITE this year.
“It’s really a dream come true that he hoped for several years ago,” said Laura Miller, who helped Kaleb in high school and stayed with him throughout SITE.
Miller taught him how to use public transportation, how to leave enough time to get around and also walked him to class. Eventually, aides like Miller start to back off a bit, allowing the student to become more independent.
“You feel for him. He wants to do so much on his own,” she said.
“We can’t hover,” Chesterfield explained. “Adult services cannot sustain a one-to-one supervision in supportive people.”
SITE has been so successful that in recent years, it has nearly doubled in size. Now, coordinators like Chesterfield see former students out in public all the time. Some, she said, are often spotted heading to their place of employment.
The program is geared toward young adults ages 18 to 22. Because Sims is 21, he will finish up his time at IUPUI and then head to another program aimed at improving job skills.