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School Desk Blog: Finding Balance

Finding Balance


Driving up Observatory Avenue in Ukiah, it’s easy to miss the small white house tucked away on the Observatory Park grounds. This house is actually a school, the Community Transition Program (CTP), where students come to learn invaluable life skills.

CTP is a Ukiah Unified School District program for young adults with various physical and/or learning disabilities. CTP’s goal is to prepare students to find independent, paid work in the community. Students may attend up to four years, starting after finishing high school and leaving after turning 22.

Although CTP is a school, it is also a community, with staff who care deeply about their students. Special Education teacher Theo Denaxas and his staff have created a warm and supportive environment that nurtures students while helping them move into adulthood. CTP is a busy place, full of activities, conversation and positive interactions.

 Unlike in traditional schools, the students at CTP do not spend their entire day at the school site learning academics. Instead, they are involved in activities, both at school and in the community, designed to help them meet their goal of independence.

The students begin their day at school with chores, which are necessary skills for maintaining a household. They take turns cleaning the house, doing the laundry, emptying the trash, recycling, composting; and one day a week, they participate in a cooking project. Every morning includes journaling and the opportunity for the students to share their writing.

After the morning activities, accompanied by staff, the students walk to the MTA bus stop to catch the bus to their jobs, where students are paid to work at various local businesses. Students work at two or more sites to find a job that is a good fit. For an hour and half each day, students may work at Walgreen’s, Marino’s, Raley’s, Redwood Cove, the Bus Barn, and/or various elementary schools. 

Businesses do not pay for this work; however, the students receive a paycheck from Workability, a state program managed by the Mendocino County Office of Education and SELPA that provides job development services and training. The Department of Rehab also collaborates with UUSD and MCOE.

After their jobs, the students take public transportation to Mendocino College. Many of them take an adaptive PE class, while others participate in Hip Hop dance, life skills, or academics for adult learners with disabilities.

When I recently stopped by CTP, it was truly abuzz with activity. During my visit I had the pleasure of talking with a few of the students. One thoughtful and engaged young woman told me about the English class she is taking at the college to improve her writing. Another student told me that he had been on the swim team at Ukiah High, and is hoping to continue swimming at the Redwood Health Club. A third student shared his really positive experience playing in the symphony at the college.

The students I spoke with all reported enjoying their jobs and added that another favorite activity is the field trips they take. Most Fridays, the students do something fun locally. This may include a shopping excursion or eating lunch at a restaurant. They also fundraise to afford bigger field trips to places like Safari West, Scandia and the Botanical Gardens in Fort Bragg.

In the afternoons, the students return to school to participate in a variety of classes designed to help them further develop job skills. Math instruction may include money skills and personal budgeting—learning how to save and spend their hard-earned dollars. They may also work on computers to improve their typing ability or practice math. 

Afternoons sometimes include time for students to do craft projects that they later sell to fundraise for their field trips. These crafts include beautiful mosaic stepping stones, homemade cards, and lovely jewelry.

Every December, the CTP program has a Winter Open House and Craft Sale. I enthusiastically recommend that you stop by the CTP Open House to see their program, enjoy refreshments, meet students, and help their fundraising efforts.