Contributed by Judy L. Shanley
The theme of the 16th Annual Division on Career Development & Transition (DCDT) Conference, Take the Future by the Horns, is also a theme that resonates the spirit and direction of ESPA work related to students and schools. The national event offered something for everybody. Held in Kansas City, MO, the meeting was an opportunity for over 400 educators, transition specialists, students, family members, researchers, and human service organization representatives to come together to address topics related to secondary transition for youth with disabilities. The range of conference sessions enabled attendees to hear about transition practices analyzed by the National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center (NSTTAC); learn about State infrastructures and evaluating systems of collaboration from nationally recognized University of Kansas researchers, Pattie Noonan and Mary Morningstar; and offer advice to ESPA staff, Mary Leary and Judy Shanley, during a focus group session about school-based transportation education.
Especially exciting was the commitment of the DCDT Board in response to activities proposed by ESPA related to strengthening our work about accessible transportation with schools and districts. ESPA staff heard repeatedly “limited transportation options for students has an impact on the community-based experiences that students have while they are in school, and also affects the opportunities that all students have once they leave high school”. DCDT Board and members expressed support for ESPA in our focus to assist educators, transition specialists, students, and families learn about transportation services and offered their continued support as partners with us in these efforts. ESPA will take the future by the horns to develop additional materials for educators, pilot new school-based initiatives, and continue to examine how transportation education can be integrated in student transition planning and academic standards, especially related to 21st century skills.
Partnerships with national organizations such as DCDT enable ESPA to access educators and transition specialists who can provide input to our materials, training, and technical assistance. Their contributions will help shape our work to strengthen coordinated transportation services for students to access community based experiences while in school. Importantly, our partnerships with organizations such as DCDT will guide our activities related to student use of accessible transportation to succeed in post school employment, education, and independent living settings.