MERIDEN — A four-year-old program for young people with special needs is getting some much-needed space.
The Community Classroom Collaborative, run by Meriden Public Schools, is opening its transitional program on the first floor of 14-16 W. Main St. A formal ribbon-cutting will be held Feb. 27 at 4 p.m.
The program, which helps those 18 to 21 transition from public school into the community, was in the community room at the YMCA. Some of the students are on the autism disorder spectrum or have developmental delays. The Y community room will still be utilized, but more advanced training will be at the new center.
“We’re still growing,” said Daniel Adamik, a special education and art teacher with Meriden Public Schools.
There are currently 26 students enrolled in the program. Students have individualized lesson plans and are taught self-help skills such as cooking and laundry at facilities in the new classroom.
Some get assistance finding jobs in the community, others attend classes at Middlesex Community College.
"The Community Classroom Collaborative is the Meriden Public Schools’ comprehensive transition program for students 18 to 21 years old who are preparing themselves for competitive employment and/or post secondary options,” said Superintendent of Schools Mark Benigni. “We have terrific staff and a quality facility that will help keep students in district."
Many of the students also work at the YMCA main branch, the Augusta Curtis Cultural Center, Gallery 53 or Mountain Mist Y Day Camp.
“This program is very beneficial, not only to the students and community, these students help us in many capacities,” said YMCA Executive Director John Benigni. “They have really been an asset. They get their education and get practical hours.”
The students also receive help from a travel trainer, who teaches them about using public transportation. The center’s proximity to the city’s train station is viewed as a plus.
“We’ve taken trips on the train, and utilized C-Town for shopping,” Adamik said.
The program is state and federally mandated for special education students, and some cities and towns are further along in implementation. Meriden’s program has two teachers, Adamik and Nancy Laurenza, a paraprofessional, and Debbie Kohan, the transition coordinator for the city. The city’s special education program funds and supervises the classroom.
After leaving the program, students are connected to the state Department of Social Services for adult services.
“They have done everything they need in high school,” Adamik said. “Some will always need supervision, but this transitioning gets them ready for life.”