Georgetown Edition | February 2022

The paths that the young adults take after graduating from the Bridges 18+ program can vary greatly. Here a few graduates from 2021 and what they are currently involved in and have accomplished. MOVING ON

“We may be learning about the post office and how to send mail,” Graef said. “Where we are at right now is learning about groceries, how to make a shopping list and how to identify healthy eating options. Then we go out to grocery stores to gain that real-life experience.” One student of the program, Jordyn Bell, said she loves to make coffee for others at the new Bridges Boutique, a shop where students sell candles, jour- nals, towels and other items they create with pro- gram staff. Jordyn Bell moved to Georgetown from San Diego in 2020 after she graduated from high school and enrolled in Bridges 18+ in 2021, her mother, Nicole Bell, said. It was hard for her to transition from having a lot of friends in high school to mov- ing to a new place, Nicole Bell said. However, the program has helped her through that. “Another thing Jordyn is really good at is making friends,” Hull said. “She has made a whole campus full of friends. She is really good at good mornings and her social skills” When the family moved, the Bells wanted their daughter to have an opportunity to get involved in the community and get a job. The program is leading her in the right direction, but there is more to discuss when it comes to her future, Nicole Bell said. “We’ve talked about colleges, but she doesn’t want to go anywhere,” she said. “Bridges 18+ is a really good stepping stone for her. We’ll see where her place will be once she gets older.” While learning how to live independently, stu- dents in the program also have to learn how to overcome the stigma of having a disability, Bridges 18+ teacher Sandra Murawski said. “When people think about a disability, they think about someone who is not capable of achiev- ing anything,” Murawski said. “That is the farthest thing from the truth. Some of these adults may not be able to walk or are not potty trained, but they are smarter than any of us. It is amazing what they can do and how much they have to offer, but the com- munity does not make room for them.” Bridges 18+ is changing how students live their lives at home as well, Murawski said. In many cases, parents do not know what their children with disabilities are capable of doing because they do not give them an opportunity to push them- selves, she said. “I had one student where the parents didn’t even know their child was capable of doing laundry until she learnedhowto through theprogram,”Murawski said. “We really start to see a lot of change happen- ing when a student learns a skill in the program and then is asked to do it at home and then parents start to ask them to do more and more.” “Transportation is the hardest piece,” Graef said. “It’s the most important factor to be independent. For many of us we get our driver’s license at 16 and gain more independence. Driving is not an option for most of our students, which is why learning how to use public transportation is so important.” Exploring opportunities after Bridges 18+ After Bridges 18+ students graduate from the program, Graef said they could find jobs in the area,

such as at the Georgetown Transportation Depart- ment, Rivery Coffee House, Old Navy and more. One graduate of the program works two jobs at Reid’s Cleaners and Laundry and Just Love Coffee, Graef said. A student last year published a book of poetry, he said. Other students enroll in Austin Community Col- lege or get involvedwith Project Search, a transition to work program helping adults with significant disabilities find work. Project Search is an organiza- tion of five other organizations, and Bridges 18+ is partnering with Ascension Seton Williamson Hos- pital to help graduates get connected with more opportunities, Hull said. “Project Search trains them in internships for nine months, and once they complete the program the idea is for them to work at that business,” Hull said. “We have several students sterilizing instru- ments and prepping operating rooms. Others love the kitchens, so they are cleaning tables, setting trays up and going to serve patients with food.” It is important to note the program is not just about students being employed, Graef said. “That’s why we provide volunteer opportunities as well because we believe all of our students have a purpose and a meaning and can give back to the community in some way,” Graef said. “We have stu- dents who continue to volunteer after graduating.” When students move from a transition program to independent living, Patton said they typically lose access to the services that once supported them. Part of transition planning is linking a stu- dent with other support services for when they leave the program, he said. Bridges 18+ helps graduates get connected to other programs that can help them with indepen- dent living and finding work, such as Bluebonnet Trails Community Services and the Texas Work- force Commission, Graef said. “We just have to figure out what Jordyn has a passion for and then hone in on that,” Nicole Bell said. “Right now her favorite thing to do is make coffee for people at Bridges Boutique even though she doesn’t drink coffee. She really likes the smell of it, though.”

JOSEPH MIKEL 2021 graduate

Participated in the W.A.C.O project at Texas A&M and has been employed with The Wash Tub in Georgetown. He is also an active member of the Centex Special Olympics Team.


Despite being nonverbal—he communicates with a letter board and iPad—David has written a collection of short stories and poems titled “Balloon Boy.”

ANDRE SIMON 2021 graduate

Simon has worked at Just Love Coffee Cafe for three years where he runs food, buses tables and preps food. He started at the cafe as an intern before working his way onto the payroll. ETHAN TRANCHON 2021 graduate After trying his hand at several different vocations, Tranchon settled on the service industry and has been working at Chili’s Bar and Grill in Georgetown for two years.

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TYPICAL DAY LUNCH: Lunchtime gives students the opportunity to practice their social skills together. REST/EAT: It also gives them the chance to recharge.

To reinforce goals and skills, students in the Bridges 18+ program combine classwork with practical experience.

INDIVIDUAL GOALS: In the afternoon, students turn to learning about local resources, from government services to shopping.

HEADING OUT: That afternoon, those newly learned skills are put to the test such as by mailing a letter or navigating a grocery store.

INDIVIDUAL GOALS: Students work on individual goals in the morning with a teacher.

HEADING OUT: Students go out to job sites to practice skills.






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