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Bridges: A GISD Program That Leaves Lifelong Impacts
Georgetown ISD is home to Bridges 18+, a transitional program that supports students with special needs by helping them increase their functional skills and independence to prepare them for day-to-day tasks of adult life.
“I am learning how to be a leader, how to be helpful, and how to choose what I want to be in life”, third-year Bridges student Brandon Sedwick said.
The Bridges program keeps students on a busy schedule. Each week, students visit local job sites where they practice skills such as portioning food, wrapping silverware, folding clothes, and custodial services. Hat Creek Burger Company in Georgetown has partnered with Bridges to teach the students cleaning skills in the restaurant industry.
“At Hat Creek, our students are learning all the ins and outs of cleaning,” Special Education Instructional Aide Kayla Muguerza said. “The students have grown to feel very welcomed and comfortable there.”
Outside of the restaurant industry, Bridges students have the opportunity to learn skills in retail. At Goodwill and Five Below, students fold and hang clothes, organize them by size and make sure they are placed in the correct places. Students also visit Angie’s Discount Grocery, where they stock the shelves and keep the aisles clean.
“Our students love going to job sites and working within our community,” Special Education Instructional Aide Courtney Marak said. “The best part of my job as a job coach is seeing them achieve their goals of independence with every new skill they learn.”
Along with visits to job sites, Bridges students have the opportunity to connect with the community through volunteer work. Students organize food pantries and clothes at the Round Rock Area Serving Center, clean up at the Georgetown Recreation Center, and put uniforms together at the Georgetown YMCA.
“The students love volunteer work because they know that what they are doing is meaningful,” Special Education Instructional Aide Loretta Tuck said. “They have the opportunity to make a difference in the community.”
Afternoons at Bridges are set aside for learning basic social skills and growing knowledge on the surrounding community. Students learn what the post office is and how to put stamps on letters, how to move around the city of Georgetown with the help of a map, and what purpose local buildings, such as libraries, serve.
“Something as small as hanging their own backpacks and getting their lunchbox out is huge for them,” Special Education teacher Sandra Murawski said. “That is just a basic skill to most people, but it makes a tremendous difference to the Bridges students.”
The independent learning pod of Bridges teaches students about services that are available to adults with disabilities, including college programs and safety procedures for emergency situations. Just as their peers did after high school, many Bridges students wish to receive a college education.
It is very important for adults with disabilities to know the resources that are available to them in order to make educated choices and continue progressing in independence after schooling is over,” Special Education teacher Corey Graef said. “It is important for them to know college programs are available to them.”
“For most, the number one concern for adults with disabilities living independently is safety,” Graef said. “It is important to learn the skills for handling emergency situations so we can eliminate some of these concerns.”
It would put a smile on anyone’s face to see the elation every Bridges student feels when they try their hand at a new skill. For them to know that they are capable of learning and achieving abilities that once seemed out of reach is huge for these students, and that is what this transitional program is all about.
“Bridges is changing our adult students' lives by giving them hands-on opportunities to learn and prepare for a successful future,” Marak said. “It’s truly the bridge to a beautiful and meaningful life where they will continue to lead, grow and serve.”
The new future-ready complex proposed in the 2021 GISD bond would become the new home for Bridges and provide opportunities for our students to connect and collaborate with many other programs in our district, like Career and Technical Education. You can read more about how the bond would impact Bridges at georgetownisdbond.org.