Social worker strives to help students with disabilities thrive

By: Charity Meier | Novi Note | Published March 22, 2023

 Novi Community School District social worker and adult transition coordinator Kristin Corrion poses for a photograph with Shailee Patel, the district’s director of special education.

Novi Community School District social worker and adult transition coordinator Kristin Corrion poses for a photograph with Shailee Patel, the district’s director of special education.

Photo provided by George Sipple


NOVI — March is Social Work Month, and the Novi Community School District has a social worker who has been working in the district for nearly 30 years with her focus on students who have special needs.

Kristin Corrion started her career in Novi in 1995. Currently she is the district’s adult transition coordinator, focused on helping adult students ages 18 to 26 to function as independently as possible.

The Novi Adult Transition Center emphasizes independent living skills, vocational skills and community-based skills. Corrion’s role is to assist the students with finding work-based learning and working on all other independent living skills.

Michigan is one of the few states that still provides education to students with special needs until they are 26 years old. According to Shailee Patel, the director of special education at the Novi Community School District, the majority of states end special education by the age of 21, which corresponds with federal law.

Corrion has been with the Novi Adult Transition Center since the program was created 10 years ago. At that time, Patel said, the NATC program was put together just four weeks before the start of the school year, after a parent decided not to send their child to Hazel Park for special education. Patel said she told Corrion they were going to provide it, and they did it.

“We started off with just two kids, and now we have built an amazing program,” said Patel. “We didn’t really get time to think it through — what was the curriculum going to be? What building? We looked for space. I was like, ‘I get the staffing, you get the space’ … and now it’s a beautiful program. So, that was our pride and joy together when I first got hired.”

Patel said that she will come up with all the “crazy” ideas and Corrion makes them happen. Corrion helps to oversee the production of micro businesses for the students, as well as the Mobile Market, therapy dogs and other various activities that the NATC students are involved in.

Today there are 19 students in the district’s NATC program working toward a certificate of completion, with one who will complete the program in June. Corrion oversees 16 students who are participating in work-based learning programs at nine different job sites, two students who have been hired by Chartwells to work at the high school kitchen, and one student who has been hired by both Premier Pet Supply and the Novi Civic Center. Along with overseeing the students at their various job sites, Corrion is responsible for finding the job sites.

“She follows through very well. She’s got great connections throughout Oakland County. Her rapport with parents is amazing … just her whole energy, her personality, always smiling, and she just does a great job,” Patel said of Corrion. “People respect her just because she is very, very thorough and she knows her stuff really well from all the different coordinator positions, transition plans with (individual education plans). She really knows how to support and help teachers and staff and ancillary, and she’s great.”

“It’s a different phase of social work,” said Corrion. “I think the most challenging aspect of any job is dealing with the day to day — the mental health aspects — the struggles that our students have.”

Although the COVID-19 pandemic was hard on everyone, according to Corrion, the virtual aspect of the pandemic was especially challenging for students with special needs and those who support them. She said that the students in the NATC need to be able to interact with other people.

“At the adult transition level we are working on social skills, and it is hard to work on social skills when you are quarantined or you’re in isolation,” said Corrion.

She hopes that people will become more aware of the benefits that social workers can offer.

“We are often dealing with students and families in crisis, so it can be difficult. … I think we try to share good news and strengths, but often we are called in to support students and families when they’re in need,” said Corrion. “I think the pandemic brought to life a lot more awareness of mental health issues everywhere, not just in schools. So I’m hoping that this issue of social work, of therapy, isn’t as taboo as it has been in previous years. I think social workers can help students and families not only from a therapeutic or a mental health aspect, but also in connecting them with necessary supports that they might not be aware of or know how to access.”

She said families and students need to be aware that there is social work support at most schools, if not all, as well as counselors. She said people should not be afraid to ask for help.

“Help is there. Please ask. That’s what our job is. That’s what we are trained to do. That’s what we love to do. That’s why we got into the field. And so ask, and we will be there for you,” said Corrion.

She said she is fortunate to work in a district that provides social services to its students. She said the district recognizes the need and benefits of her field and is able to provide social workers at every building. She said she thinks the Novi Community School District is forward and creative in its thinking to provide opportunities for its students.

“I have been honored to be a part of this district and watch it grow over these past 28 years,” Corrion said.

Patel said that one of the nice things that Corrion does is connect families with outside agencies and help them with preparation for when their children will transition out of the program.

“She’s able to coordinate and help families understand what that transition might be like for their kids, especially those that are not going to get a diploma and are going to be in the school until the age of 26,” said Patel.

Corrion said she will be retiring at the end of the school year and plans to take a trip in September, as she has not been able to take a vacation at that time of year.

“I’m looking forward to taking a little bit of a break for a while. … It’s time for me to try something different,” she said.

“People say everyone is replaceable. She is definitely not going to be replaceable,” said Patel. “I’m going to miss her very dearly. We’ve had a great journey together for 10 years. We’ve seen adults with disabilities do things we never thought they could. It’s been great.”