Learning the necessary skills is essential for all students as they navigate through their educational experiences. For some, these skills come naturally while others need continued real-world experience to build confidence beyond the classroom.
Keri Martinez and Jennifer Satin, two teachers of the life skills program at Colonie Central High School have taken this sentiment to heart, working to provide students with personalized experiences weekly while providing opportunities for the students to take their skills on the road.
As part of their scheduled outings, each month, more than a dozen students participating in the program spend an hour of their time making dog treats for the animals that reside at the Mohawk Humane Society.
“The experience has been tremendous for our students,” said Martinez. “Our students know that what they are doing is for a purpose. My favorite part is watching how independent our students have become through this partnership.”
Martinez has been bringing her classes to the Humane Society for more than four years. The relationship started between her and a longstanding volunteer with the organization Cherrie Edwards.
“Keri initially brought her students to the humane society for the educational program that I was a part of,” said Edwards. “Once her and I made the connection, we started brainstorming ways to best work with the students and the idea of the treats came up.”
Every time the students visit the organization, they make 20 lbs of dog treats. The students work on their fine motor development, learn to follow multi-step directions and practice their communication skills. At the end of each session, the students and staff work together to clean up and then they take a brief tour to see the animals.
“It is so nice to see the students come in and get right to work because they are comfortable here,” said Edwards. “These students may come in for just an hour a month, but what they are doing is meaningful to the organization. We give the dogs the treats in the morning while they are waiting for their breakfast, ” she added.
Students who participate in the program also work with other organizations including the South Colonie Food Service Department, Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, Sarabella Pizzeria, and Coccadots.
“Our hope is that the students continue to build confidence through these personalized opportunities,” said Supervisor of Special Programs William Boardman. “We feel strongly that expanding their life skills experience to outside the classroom will give our students the understanding of their individual abilities and allow them to continue to develop those broad transferable skills so that when they transition out of the program they are comfortable in a variety of environments.”