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Donna ISD Launches New 18+ Program

The Donna Independent School District’s Special Education Department has launched a new program designed to help students who have completed their academic instruction, gain their independence and transition into adulthood.

Special Education Director, Sylvia Cardenas, said the 18 + Program is up and running at the Runn campus located on 281 Military Highway. While this initiative is in the beginning stages, Cardenas said it is coming along nicely. The program will provide services to special needs students who are between the ages of 18 and 21 and have completed all of their credit/curriculum/state assessment requirements. “These students have already completed their academic instruction but are continuing with us through the age of 21,” Cardenas said. “The purpose of this program is for the students to be able to use the skills that they learned in school. This will help them transition into their adulthood life and become productive members of society.”

The program is targeting three core areas this year. In one area, students are using cricket stationery to learn how to design t-shirts, aprons, cups, mugs, and caps. “They will be using the skills they learned to make these items,” Cardenas said. “They will in turn sell the items they designed in a coffee shop bistro setting that we’ve opened.”

Students in this program will also have an opportunity to run a thrift store. “We have already received donations that will help us jump start our new thrift store,” Cardenas said. “The students will experience first-hand what it’s like to work in a store.”

In addition, students will learn how to cater to guests. “We’re going to set up a room that will be used to hold workshops and in-service and staff meetings,” Cardenas said. “The students will act as hosts and serve the individuals by using the knowledge they gained in the coffee shop bistro. They’ve already started and they’re getting really excited. 

Cardenas said Donna ISD will be expanding the program in the near future that will include horticulture. “We’re going to be starting a garden in the back of our building,” Cardenas said. “We’re partnering with the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge folks who will be giving us some supplies and materials. The students are going to be planting and making flower arrangements and items of that nature to sell.”

Cardenas said the plan is to make the 18 + a full-fledged program. “It’s going to be really beneficial to the student, but what’s really exciting is watching the students finally being able to use the skills that they’ve learned and transition to their adulthood.  Seeing them in action is wonderful and brings me a lot of joy.”