MSJC hosts Adult Life Skills Program Graduation

The May 25 ceremony celebrated seven students
Students in the Adult Life Skills Program celebrated a milestone on May 25 after completing four years of study in areas of career education, independent living, community-based and application skills.
A graduation ceremony on Friday, May 25 at Mt. San Jacinto College marked a transition to independence for the students with special needs who attended the Riverside County Office of Education Adult Life Skills Program.
Seven graduates were joined by about 100 friends, family members and Mt. San Jacinto College staff and administrators who offer services to help students succeed.
“This is a special milestone in their lives,” said Annette Carrozzo, who teaches for RCOE at MSJC’s Menifee Valley Campus, along with Edna Reid. The ceremony was held at the campus’ community room.
RCOE’s Adult Life Skills Program began on the MSJC’s Menifee Valley Campus on September 10, 2001. The program, serving special needs students ages 18 to 22, is a collaborative effort involving the county office of education and MSJC. 
Carrozzo thanked each graduate’s family for helping the young adults get to this point in their young lives. Most students enter the program after high school and attend until they turn 22. The program teaches students valuable work skills, community skills, social skills and technology skills, Carrozzo said in an e-mail before the graduation. These skills will assist the students to live more independent lives and to become successful citizens who contribute to their communities, she wrote.
“The community is our classroom as students utilize community banks, stores, restaurants and other neighborhood resources.  Students earn a monthly paycheck and learn to bank more independently.  Students also interact and participate in campus health and career fairs and other resources available to everyone on campus throughout the month,” Carrozzo wrote.
More than 20 retail stores, restaurants and nonprofit agencies offered worksites to the students to learn how to hold a job. Whether it was cleaning, stocking shelves or other duties, each site taught them the importance of being on time, working hard and following directions.
At MSJC, the College Bookstore, College Cafe, Child Development Center, Instructional/Support Office, the Career and Technical Education Office, Maintenance Department, Enrollment Office and the Computer Technology Department all assist in the program.
“Working in public, I’ve learned to have a positive attitude every day,” said graduate Mark Schledwitz.
Kenneth Goode stayed busy at school and in the community as he earned his Eagle Scout award for a project to benefit Menifee Lakes. Although his design and installation of a plaque that explains what visitors see at the lake, he had the explanation also written in Braille “for Michael A.” His classmate and fellow graduate, Michael Arellanes, is legally blind.
A slide show of activities from the past year was compiled by Krystle Reid, 16. Several photos showed the group visiting Goode’s Eagle Scout project at Menifee Lakes.
As the afternoon’s student speaker, Arellanes prepared a special speech in Braille that he read to the audience.
“In this program I learned how to be responsible,” he read. “I learned a lot from the program and set an example for everyone to follow after. I got to know the world around me and to trust other people (to help me). I will take everything that I have learned here and enjoy life.”
Ann M. Vessey, RCOE’s Executive Director for Special Education, accepted the graduates on behalf of Riverside County Superintendent of Schools Kenneth M. Young.
“A huge tradition to show that you fulfilled your education requirements and are ready to move on across the bridge is to turn your tassels from one side of your hat to the other,” she told the seven graduates sitting in the front row in black caps and gowns.
Vessey pointed out that family members have also worked hard to get to this point in their children’s lives, attended hundreds of educational meetings to be sure their students needs were met throughout their academic careers.
“Thanks to all the providers who sit through meetings to set goals and get them to this point of graduation,” said Vessey, who has been with RCOE for 32 years. “It truly takes a team of people to get where we are at today. We do that with all our children – whether they are able-bodied or not. Thank you for being partners with us at RCOE.”
Graduates included Michael Arellanes, Michael Ocampo, Kenneth Goode, Thela Noor, Jose Manuel Perez, Evelin Romo and Mark Schledwitz.