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January 16, 2013

RCS S.T.E.P.S program receives $12,000 Technology Impact Grant

By Mary Beth Almond
C & G Staff Writer

ROCHESTER — The School Employment and Personal Success program at Rochester Community Schools recently received iPads for adult special-education students in the school-to-work transition program.

The iPads were made possible thanks to a $12,000 Technology Impact Grant from MiCTA, a national nonprofit cooperative purchasing organization.

MiCTA Chief Operating Officer Tim von Hoff said in a statement that he is pleased to support the S.T.E.P.S program with a grant. 

“We believe this exciting use of mobile technology will improve the students’ independence and enhance their abilities to transition successfully into the workplace,” he said in a statement.

Dale Anne Hopkins, instructional technology specialist for RCS, said the district was “absolutely delighted” to learn it was one of two districts that would receive the grant.

“Our grant originally was supposed to be about $10,000, and they decided to go beyond and granted us additional money because they wanted to have connectivity for more than one year. So they increased it to $12,000, which was wonderful, and we so appreciate the opportunity to have the connectivity through Sprint for an additional year,” she said. “It’s going to serve the special-education community in a very unique way.”

The S.T.E.P.S program is for students ages 18-26 who receive special education.

“S.T.E.P.S stands for Students Transitioning to Employment and Personal Success, so our program’s main purpose is getting the students out into the community at job sites to learn job skills so that they eventually will be able, once they are done with school, to hold down their own jobs. We also work on the independent-living piece. We look to make them as independent as possible. We’re out in the community, we go grocery shopping, we go shopping for their own personal needs, we utilize the library, and we just familiarize them with the community so that, one day, when they are on their own, they would be able to know how to use those independent skills at their own place,” said S.T.E.P.S teacher Katie Cloos.

The 13 students in the S.T.E.P.S program were thrilled to see the iPads had arrived when they came into class Jan. 8.

“I thought it was going to be another week or two, but I came in Tuesday morning and they were already set up in our rooms and ready to go. The students were overjoyed. It’s a great opportunity for them. They were so excited,” Closs said.

The devices, which will be distributed to each of the students in the program, will enable the students to communicate with their teachers and job coaches while away from the school building. Cloos said S.T.E.P.S students will also be able to use the new technology in their workplace, both to capture photographs or video and share new skills with classmates back in the classroom, as well as to keep them on track with task lists.

“They have four things they need to do within the four hours they are at a job site in the community, and we can indicate it on the iPad. They can also utilize Facetime, as needed, to get ahold of a job coach, or myself, if they have any questions,” Cloos said.

For now, Cloos is focusing on teaching students the basics of the iPad technology.

“Some of our students have not had iPads in the past, so right now, we are starting pretty basic, with just learning how to use the iPad. We’ve utilized it for looking into current events, email and weather, so far,” she said.

Cloos said she is excited to have this opportunity.

“We all know iPads are a new and upcoming technology, and to be able to expose our students to this type of technology is a wonderful blessing to us. We are very lucky,” she added.

For more information about the grant, visit www.mictatech.org.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Mary Beth Almond at malmond@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1060.