Chehalis students in the VISIONS Program work and engage in the local community, in partnership with many local businesses. Many of us are less familiar with this kind of program – a special education program in the Chehalis School District designed to support 18-21 year old students with significant disabilities, preparing them for post-secondary life: career, independent living, and education. Chehalis teachers, and local business people make it a valuable partnership in education.

The students who attend VISIONS are intentionally placed there through a special identification process because they require additional time before graduation. This time is used to develop skills for independence, within the scope of each student’s unique needs. The instruction and support VISIONS students receive improves the outcomes in these areas.

Some VISIONS students are enrolled in the Adult Basic Education (ABE) classes at Centralia College. All VISIONS students learn valuable independent living skills in the classroom and out in the community. They gain skills for employment thanks to partnerships between the school district and several businesses in our community.

Chehalis School District partners with a variety of businesses and organizations to ensure students learn many skills. Students may learn to clean, organize, package candy, take care of animals, sort, shelve items, and much more.

“We highly value our community partners,” shares Director of Student Support Katie Howell. VISIONS students are working in businesses throughout the Chehalis community. In part, this is thanks to VISIONS Job Developer Kyle Tupper, who focuses on creating relationships with businesses and developing job exploration opportunities that match student abilities and interest. Currently, community partners include:

Ace Hardware, Chehalis
Diversified Games, Chehalis
Fairfield Hotel, Grand Mound
Great Wolf Lodge, Grand Mound
Grocery Outlet
Holiday Inn, Chehalis
Katie’s Candies, Chehalis
Kitty Kat Haven, Chehalis
Lewis County Coffee
Maurice’s, Chehalis
McDonald’s, Centralia
McDonald’s, Chehalis
Municipal Court (legal records office), Chehalis
Petals Design and Living Gifts, Chehalis
Second Time Around Thrift, Chehalis
Southwest Washington Fairgrounds
Thorbeckes Fitness, Centralia
Totally Pawsome, Chehalis
Vernetta Smith Chehalis Timberland Library
Visiting Nurses, Centralia
Visiting Nurses, Chehalis
4Legz – organic plant-based pet treats, Centralia

By working in our community, students learn valuable life skills and form meaningful relationships with potential employers; while the employers learn about supporting students to be successful.

When people are out in our community shopping, they will be able to identify those businesses who partner with VISIONS students in our district when they see the sign below displayed in their window.

VISIONS also provides support to students as they learn about independent living skills.

For example, learning to access the community promotes independence in navigating resources, transportation, and healthy living. Another example is cooking. Food preparation happens on a regular basis at VISIONS. All students learn about the process of meal preparation from selecting a recipe, to making a shopping list, to preparing and eating their meals.

Very special staff members make this all happen daily in our VISIONS Program. In a recent meeting of the Chehalis School District Board of Directors, Katie Howell proudly introduced teachers Kathryn Rotter and Jeremy Kaufman. She also expressed appreciation for an amazing support staff who enables the program to be successful: Liz Angell, Jinny Hazlett, Ann Pederson, Kyle Tupper, Johnny Troy, Tammy Rasku, and Brittany Tomes.

This kind of partnership, between a local school district and the business community, strengthens our entire community and demonstrates our common goal – to support and grow young people to be healthy, happy, productive and contributing citizens.