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Special-needs students celebrate facility

ST. CHARLES – Twenty-year-old Gloria Fisher on Wednesday was quick to describe the space that she and her peers once used for cooking purposes as “a dinky little classroom.”

That was in the Mades-Johnstone Center on Ronzheimer Avenue. Now, Fisher and the other 51 young adults in the transitional programs offered by the Mid-Valley Special Education Cooperative are based out of Suite 100 of the Shelby Building, 210 S. Fifth St.

The S.A.I.L. – Students Attaining Independent Living – and ToTAL – Transition to Adult Living – programs moved to the Batavia Enterprises property in August.

The young adults welcomed guests to the Transition Center for a one-hour open house Wednesday, showing them the computer room, conference room, classrooms and kitchen, which was stocked with student-made cookies and other treats.

Carla Cumblad, Mid-Valley’s executive director, said students are happier and more independent since the move. The center’s location puts the students within walking distance of a bank, grocery store, laundromat and various work sites, she said.

Program coordinator Tim Stoudt said the new environment better supports the goal of preparing special-needs students ages 18 to 22 for life after public school because it does not have a bell system, class periods or other students.

“It’s an adult environment,” he said.

Components of the S.A.I.L. and ToTAL programs include nutrition, kitchen safety, food safety and preparation, grocery shopping, comparison shopping, budgeting, paying bills, accessing public transportation, setting up a household, problem solving, conversational skills and interviewing skills.

More than four dozen students participate in the transition programs. However, the young adults rarely are at the center at the same time because they also spend time in the community, such as at work sites and at Elgin and Waubonsee community colleges, staff said.

Fisher, for example, spends Wednesday afternoons and Thursday mornings at the Fit N’ Fun Child Care Program at the Delnor Health and Wellness Center. Another student has a job at Burger King.

Mid-Valley Special Education Cooperative is an Illinois public school joint agreement and serves students in Central School District 301, Batavia School District 101, Kaneland School District 302, St. Charles School District 303 and Geneva School District 304.

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