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Transformative conference charts course toward ‘amazing things’

After being canceled at the last minute due to the emerging COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and held as a virtual event during the 2021 school year, BLaST Intermediate Unit 17 and Pennsylvania College of Technology hosted their annual Transition Conference in person on Thursday in the college’s Klump Academic Center.

Over 230 participants from 17 local school districts connected with educational institutions, industry professionals and community agencies helping to solidify individual plans for students as they transition from their school-age years into adulthood.

Community advocate Amber Logan (left) leads a “Become a Superstar” movement session, incorporating Drums Alive exercises in a fourth-floor ACC classroom.
Community advocate Amber Logan (left) leads a “Become a Superstar” movement session, incorporating Drums Alive exercises in a fourth-floor ACC classroom.

Transition is a special education term used when students, parents/guardians, community agencies and school districts work together to set realistic goals for the future.

“This process ensures every student with special needs moves on to do amazing things after graduation,” said Jeffrey Pelly, transition consultant for BLaST. “Whether it’s further education at a college or trade school, going straight to the workforce or participating in the community, we know everyone fits after high school. The key is finding out where, and our conference is designed to help answer this question. IU 17 was honored to work with Penn College once again as we continue transform lives and communities through educational services.”

In the morning, the conference provided breakout sessions in three key areas of transition: education and training, employment, and community engagement. Students had the autonomy to choose a pathway with sessions based on their own aspirations. In addition, the conference provided vendor space for 21 community agencies that specialize in supporting individuals with disabilities.

“The conference provided a centralized location for students, parents/guardians and other interested professionals to attend and have access to agencies that offered a variety of services, resources and opportunities,” explained Dawn M. Dickey, director of disability and access resources at Penn College. “Networking with various resources and support is essential for students who are developing and strengthening goals for life after high school. The conference would not have been possible without the collaboration of members of our community and our partnership with BLaST IU 17.”

An inspiring and engaging speaker, Mike Wrench encourages audience members to follow their passions – whatever they are and wherever they lead.
An inspiring and engaging speaker, Mike Wrench encourages audience members to follow their passions – whatever they are and wherever they lead.

After lunch, attendees were engaged by keynote speaker Mike Wrench, an independent musician specializing in percussion, who is also an educator through his company Upbeat Outreach LLC.  Influenced by his family’s musical background, his passion for drums started in childhood banging on pots and pans in his parents’ kitchen.

Wrench explained he takes his instruction and mentoring efforts as a branch of his personal enthusiasm and dedication for percussion, as well as a means of harnessing and promoting the therapeutic qualities of music.  Upbeat Outreach ensures the special-needs population gets the same benefits and rewards of being a drummer as the rest of society.

Regarding transitioning students, Wrench indicated, “Having options is one of the biggest tools that we can possess in our pocket.  That’s what made me strive to be successful in my adult life as not just a drummer, but a mentor who supports all types of individuals. My message is to share your passion with others; it could turn into a career and you’ll love every day of your professional life!”

BLaST Intermediate Unit 17 is an educational service agency serving 19 public schools, two career centers and 12 nonpublic schools across Bradford, Lycoming, Sullivan and Tioga counties. BLaST’s vision is to transform lives and communities through educational services. In order to achieve that vision, BLaST’s everyday mission is to provide, create and facilitate high-quality educational solutions.

– Photos by Cindy Davis Meixel, writer/photo editor

 

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