LIFT program teaches life skills to special needs alumni

As part of the Learning Independence for Transition (LIFT) program, students aid in the preparation of Grab ‘N’ Go breakfasts in the cafeteria.

LIFT is a four-year program designed to promote independence in adult students with disabilities, ages 18 to 22. The program teaches academic, job, and life skills, including cooking, budgeting, completing job applications, and many more.

“We also teach students how to navigate the community,” Kathleen Victory, special education teacher at LIFT North, said. “Another major component of the program involves teaching students to identify personal strengths, discover passions, understand weaker areas and how to compensate [for those areas], and advocate for themselves.”

The idea to have students assist in the cafeteria stemmed from viewing other nearby work possibilities within the district that help foster independence.

“Students at LIFT began volunteering in the district’s central kitchen a few years ago,” Victory said. “From that experience, administrators and teachers began discussing other work possibilities in the district, and the idea of working in the kitchens of nearby AUSD schools was born.”

In the preparation of Grab ‘N’ Go breakfasts for each day, students sort out packaged food on trays in their categorized rows. They place the trays on a rolling cart, which is taken to a refrigerated area.

“We organize and help prepare breakfast for the students,” LIFT student Gladys Wang said. “I enjoy [assisting] the cafeteria staff because they are very busy and it feels nice to help them.”

Cafeteria manager Roxanne Venegas said the students are able to learn more than how to perform certain tasks through LIFT.

“These wonderful students have really learned valuable tools to work in the kitchen,” Venegas said. “They’ve learned about sanitation, food safety, how to follow directions, and how to complete tasks in a timely manner.”

By assisting in the cafeteria, students are given the opportunity to perform a variety of new tasks and practice them to perfection, all while learning a lesson on self-reliance.

“The hope is that the skills learned and practiced in the cafeteria will transfer to other jobs and responsibilities students may have in the future,” Victory said. “The nature of the tasks [in] the kitchen promotes independence in our students. They are able to learn and perfect the tasks they are given relatively quickly, which leads them to perform the jobs with increasing independence.”

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