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August 9, 2013

Okoboji High School Mini Grant Experiences

by Diane Twait Nelsen

Okoboji 2“Thanks again for these amazing and eye-opening opportunities!”  That’s the way Okoboji High School special education teacher Jennifer Prentice started out her evaluation and update about AEA 8’s Transition Mini Grants.  Mrs. Prentice with support from her high school administration and the funding provided by two Transition Mini Grants took full advantage of the opportunities that AEA 8’s Transition Mini Grants offered her classroom.  They used the mini grants to fund visits at  Village Northwest in Sheldon, Sunshine Inc. in Spencer,  Project Learning at Iowa Lakes Community College and Horizons Unlimited, Smith Wellness Center, and Wild Rose Casino’s kitchen and hotel in Emmetsburg Iowa, and Hope Haven in Rock Valley.

Here is some of the feedback Mrs. Prentice and her class would like to share about their first day’s adventure in transition learning.  They started  by visiting the ILCC campus and programs.  Mrs. Prentice noted: “This was an opportunity that was a first for all my students.  They loved the campus lay-out and communicating with fellow ILCC students. We toured Project Learning and saw adults in action working on functional life skills tasks in the kitchen and Day-Hab.  We also visited Horizons Unlimited in Emmetsburg and toured their facility and one of the group homes.  We had the opportunity to use the Smith Wellness Center through Horizons and the student’s took risks and had new experiences such as using locker rooms and the pool’s diving board! One student said it was his most favorite day of the school year!  Finally we, visited Wild Rose Casino and Resort where our students were able to view the kitchen and explore jobs that would be possible  for a student interested in food service careers.  Not only did we view all these programs but we also located important community areas of interest such as the post office, gas stations, restaurants, the lake and parks.”

The group also visited Village Northwest at Sheldon, Sunshine Inc. Programs in Spencer, and Hope Haven in Rock Valley.    Mrs. Prentice noted all the programs were great to visit -“The people, staff, and residents were all so welcoming.  As a teacher I enjoyed seeing all the residential services available.  The information I gained I will be able to share in many IEP’s in the future and will provide great sharing of knowledge as we set plans for my students beyond the walls here at Okoboji High School. ”  She continued, “These were real life experiences that I will continue to give each student and help educate them about opportunities that are out there.  This experience not only has provided great classroom conversations but also allows further meaningful conversations with parents in IEP conferences, parent-teacher conferences, and in daily communication!”  The students were amazed at the opportunities these programs offered also!

Last but not least students participating in these transition mini grant opportunities have down-loaded apps on their iPads to look into options after graduation…Mrs. Prentice noted that “my students are opening up and communicating about their desires and hopes in their futures!”    If you are interested in following up with Mrs. Prentice about the experiences that she and her students were involved in, please feel free to contact her at

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