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  • Writer's pictureThe Hambrick Foundation

High school special needs educator preparing students for life after graduation awarded THF grant

Kristopher Ketelsen, a special education teacher at Olympia High School in Stanford, Illinois will use funds from a THF grant to ensure students meet graduation requirements and are ready for life after high school.

His students go through the Olympia Transition Program (OTP), where individualized education is developed for students who qualify for an IEP. The program provides students with the opportunity to complete necessary coursework to earn a high school diploma and learn necessary life skills to be active community members.

"The Olympia Transition Program prides itself on preparing students for their transition out of high school by focusing on the skills; independent, advocate and a growth mindset," Ketelsen said.

Funds will provide instruction and sensory items including community based instruction, flexible seating, sensory lights, sensory fidgets and materials for the school's A9 Diner and PAES Lab.

"The diner is designed to generate profits for our classroom budget," Ketelsen wrote in his grant application. "Unfortunately, it has been impacted due to increased food and drink costs. The lab mimics a true work environment while completing various job tasks. Students budget mock paychecks with bills and opportunities to shop."

Ketelsen said the items he will purchase with grant funds are imperative to the project's success.

"The instructional materials will positively impact students by providing them with increased opportunities to engage in real world skills within our school building but most importantly, within our community," he added. "The sensory materials will positively impact students by nurturing a safe and inclusive environment. The district’s goal is to create trauma-informed classrooms. The sensory materials are proactive tools to support all students."

Success will be measured and observed though IEP and academic goals, student surveys and anecdotal conversations with students, team members and families.


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