Transitioning into Adulthood as a VSP Student
January 6, 2022 - The transition from childhood to adulthood can be an exciting, challenging, and bittersweet time. For many students enrolled in the Vocational Skills Program (VSP), that is their last step before they enter the world as working adults or pursue other postsecondary education opportunities. To help students during the transition period, representatives from Easterseals Midwest have been conducting self-determination and leadership classes to educate students about their rights and how to live independently.
“The focus is on increasing self-advocacy and becoming a primary decision maker,” said VSP instructor Debra Jost.
“We work with such a vulnerable population, so it’s important that our students know even the simple things and take ownership of their rights like carrying an ID, having access to health care, the right to get married and have a family, or to live alone,” said VSP instructor Anna Goldkamp.
In the “My Life My Rights” program, students learned through presentations, discussions, and hands-on activities about choosing where and with whom to live, employment, control over personal money, safety and security, types of abuse, and how to protect themselves and others. One of the most popular projects among students was creating a vision board for their future. They designed their dream home, made decisions about guardianship, and defined other life goals. The instructors wanted to help students create a balance of navigating life as independently as possible while solving problems and knowing when and how to ask for help.
“They took charge of having their own voice,” said VSP instructor Anna Goldkamp. “It wasn’t anyone telling them what they want, what they should want or what is right for their life. It’s their life and they just picked apart those different pieces of what we have control over and sometimes don’t even think about.”
All of the Easterseals instructors are in the Easterseals program, which Jost says made the experience even more meaningful and relatable for students.
“I learned a lot of new things about my rights,” said student Norah Baker. “It’s important to know what options you have and what is going on around you.”
The program will continue to be offered at various VSP sites in the spring and summer. The instructors look forward to being involved in a program that enriches and reinforces the information they teach to their students.