Life after graduation for students with disabilities in New Braunfels

District launches Gateway Transition Program for students ages 18 to 22

By Alicia Barrera - Multimedia Journalist, Azian Bermea - Photojournalist

NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas - This school year at New Braunfels Independent School District, high school graduates with disabilities will be able to return to their alma mater to develop life skills.

New Braunfels ISD is opening the doors to a center named the Gateway Transition Program for students ages 18 to 22.

Since graduating from high school two years ago, Lauren Louden, 20, had been part of a similar transition program with a nearby district.

Louden's mom, Brenda Macgillis, is excited about the new center. "She's a lot less anxious about going into new situations. I've seen a lot of skill-building," Macgillis said.

Catherine Archer, Assistant Director of Special Education at New Braunfels ISD, is excited her students will not have to travel far to experience what it’s like to live and work independently.

"It’s almost, like, having an apartment and a workspace combined," Archer said. "We have a kitchen, bedroom area, and a dining room area. We also have retail space, classroom area, and a work center."

Although still in its beginning stages, Archer said the space for the Gateway Transition Program is a reflection of the community’s support to make the program feel more like home.

"We had one young man that was getting his Eagle Scout (badge), and so he volunteered his time and services to be able to build the picnic tables," Archer said.

Students will be able to learn how to prepare, cook and serve food, as well as have a chance to socialize at the picnic tables.

This year, 10 young adults have registered for the program and will continue to receive services until they are 22 years old.

"It feels great. It's very encouraging," Macgillis said. "As long as she can be given some accommodations along the way in training, (I know) that she can do a lot of the things that other young adults (are able to) do."

Parents like Macgillis hope local employers also take an interest in the special abilities of these dedicated young adults.

"If you have a need do you think that could be fulfilled (by) one of these young adults, reach out," Macgillis said.

The program will launch Monday, Aug. 26.

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