YOAKUM – Red paper crabs, lobsters, an octopus and a multicolored paper fish hung from an orange net on the ceiling as students listened to a reading assignment Friday morning at Yoakum High School.
Barbara Curtis, a paraprofessional, read to the class of eight students a story about a family going shopping and to an amusement park. After answering a question about the assignment, Israel “Izzy” Vasquez told his teachers and classmates his thoughts about amusement parks.
“I’m not scared of roller coasters,” Izzy, 15, said. “They’re not scary.”
The students of the Reaching for Independence through Support and Education, or RISE, program were working on reading and listening skills through an audio program called Unique.
“You’ll find that throughout our program here, our kids are learning what everyone else is learning, just in a way that supports them best,” said Tessa Sanchez, principal of the multidistrict programs.
The DeWitt-Lavaca Special Education Cooperative started classes last week. The program provides special education services to students 3-21 years old. The program includes students from Yoakum, Hallettsville, Moulton, Shiner and Yorktown. Students from Ezzell and Sweet Home also attend the program, Sanchez said.
Services the program provides includes adaptive physical education, assistive technology, behavior consultant services, counseling, nursing services, occupational therapy, speech therapy and vision services.
Students in the program can expect their education curriculum to be similar to the general education material, Sanchez said, but adapted to the best way the student in the program can learn. Math lessons could include hands-on learning projects, such as making food, said teacher Deborah Cook.
“We made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, so the students counted each slice of bread, how much peanut butter and jelly was put on the sandwiches and how many plates were on the table,” Cook said. The program, she said, has projects that include more than one lesson, “so the sandwich lesson was both math and food skills, which is a life skill.”
The program also teaches life skills, such as the Individual Vocational Education and Skills Training, or InVEST program. Students take field trips throughout the year to local businesses to learn about different jobs, Sanchez said.
“Depending on the student, they can successfully become employed or perform volunteer services,” Sanchez said. “We want our students to thrive. We want them to be able to leave from the program a successful adult and member of the community.”
Izzy, a Bulldogs fan, said he was excited to get back to school this year. The youth just started shaving – a sign that he is growing up, he said. Izzy said he loves learning and enjoys doing homework. He said he enjoys food skills assignments because the students get to eat them afterward.
Izzy would like to be a chef or a cook when he graduates, he said.
“Every day I come to school, I pray that we all have a good day,” Izzy said. “And every day it is.”