by BAC Brevard Achievement Center

Making the Transition – High School to the “Real World” is Elementary at BAC

Chances are that if your son or daughter is still too young for high school, you haven’t thought much about what he or she will do after graduation. But you should.

Exceptional Student Education (ESE) high school students enrolled in Brevard Public Schools have a variety of programs and resources to help them prepare for the transition to community-based employment upon graduation or, if work is not an option, a day program. Brevard Achievement Center (BAC) offers programs and services that can assist you either way.

Through BAC’s Practical Application of Career Exploration (PACE) program, ESE students enrolled in Brevard public high schools’ Learning Strategies class learn valuable career readiness skills. Resumé writing, completing applications, dressing for success and interviewing techniques are all part of the PACE program’s curriculum. Students are thus better prepared for obtaining and maintaining employment upon graduation because of this program.

Students with disabilities unable to transition into a community-based work environment can enroll in BAC’s Adult Day Training (ADT) program that’s housed within its Rockledge headquarters. Here daily life skills classes are taught and, if applicable, work opportunities in BAC’s Production Center are available. Participants can choose to attend the required two-day minimum, or come up to five days a week, Monday-Friday. Opportunities to work also are available in the Production Center if program participants desire to earn a paycheck. Tasks like preparing NASA media kits for rocket launch days, assembling the City of West Melbourne’s water bills for mailing or packaging products for state agencies through RESPECT of Florida are just a few examples.

Enrichment opportunities are seen as an integral part of the ADT program, too. Special events, speakers and volunteer opportunities at places like the Sharing Center of Central Brevard are available to participants. In addition, Cogswell Street Studio is the art program at BAC. The Studio contains three kilns so artists with disabilities can create unique clay items like dishware and decorative pieces. Artists also make fused glass jewelry and floor mats from recycled tires. All items are then sold in-house, at local arts and crafts fairs, as well as a few businesses in the community. Proceeds from art sales go back into the program.

Because of BAC’s long history working with transitioning high school students, we know that families cannot plan too far in advance. Years before the transition age is reached, you and your child’s guidance counselor need to discuss the best funding options for your family, especially if you know that, realistically, paying for services out-of-pocket is not going to be an option.
High demand and shrinking budgets have caused state agencies like the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) to put those needing services on a waitlist: Today, that list is almost 10 years long. That means that if your child needs to enter a day program at, for example, age 22, but you have no funding source secured, your child could be age 32 before funding becomes available. Don’t delay this very important discussion.

If a student that enters the workforce after graduation finds that he wants a different job, once registered then referred through Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), BAC’s Employment Services department will assign an employment coordinator to assist with finding another community-based employment opportunity. Coordinators will continue to touch base with the client for 90 days to ensure a successful outcome. Or for those individuals that may want to learn a different skill set, an On-the-Job Training (OJT) position is probably the better choice.

And if, with the right supports, living independently seems like a goal that can be attained, BAC’s Supported Living program will give your child the necessary assistance to be successful. Supported Living coordinators meet with clients at their homes to help with activities like grocery shopping, budgeting or doing laundry. Coordinators might be needed to take clients to the doctor. Whatever it takes to ensure that independent living is achieved is what the client and coordinator work together to accomplish.

BAC has been in operation since 1968 which means that the agency has a wealth of experience assisting people with disabilities achieve personal success. Almost 15 years ago, BAC became the host site for Very Special Arts Florida-Brevard County (VSAFL-BC), an affiliate of VSA Florida. This program gives students in Brevard’s public elementary and middle schools a chance to grow through the arts. Visiting artists work with classrooms to create performances featured at the annual Performing Arts Showcase, or art that’s displayed over three days at the spring Hands-On Arts Festival held at the Brevard Zoo. And an annual holiday card contest is held each year with the winning student’s art serving as a local business donor’s holiday card.

This rich history of operating quality programs and services for people with disabilities created other opportunities for growth, and not just in Brevard. The agency employs certified Community Work Incentive Coordinators, or CWICs, to provide Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA) services to beneficiaries’ ages 14 through full retirement age receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) in 14 Florida counties. In addition, through a partnership with SourceAmerica, one of two agencies that oversees the federal AbilityOne program, BAC is contracted to provide such business services as commissary operations, custodial services, grounds maintenance and dining operations at 13 federal sites (as of June 2017) located throughout Florida and in North Carolina, Puerto Rico and Virginia.

The Economic Development Council of Florida’s Space Coast says that BAC is the county’s 27th largest employer. In 2016, the agency employed approximately 716 individuals with disabilities; it served over 4,000 people with disabilities throughout the year as well.

Whether you’re a parent of a child nearing transition or an adult with a disability, BAC has the programs and services to meet your needs. Visit bacbrevard.com or call (321) 632-8610 to learn more.