Woodbridge students RISE in their community through post-high school program
Many times, students with disabilities who are close to completing their secondary education have not been given the necessary skills and knowledge to thrive as adults in the working world. A program run through the Woodbridge Township school district aims to provide local students with exactly those types of resources.
RISE, or Reaching Individual Student Excellence, is open to graduates up to age 21.
"After they've earned their diplomas, their diplomas are held by the district so that they are able to continue their education with our program," said Linda Rockmaker, the teacher who first developed RISE several years ago.
She said the program teaches these young adults both inside and outside the classroom, and also provides physical education, speech therapy, and other wellness services. Funding comes primarily from Woodbridge schools.
"This is a fully accredited school within the school district," Rockmaker said. "This is the same as any other school gets their funding."
RISE routinely partners with more than a dozen local businesses in the Woodbridge area, which open their doors to give the students ample opportunities to learn job skills. Those businesses are a diverse set, including Jo-Ann Fabric, Marshalls, Pizza Hut, Walgreens, the Hotel Woodbridge at Metropark, and even Woodbridge Town Hall.
"The goal of our program is for (the students) to be trained in as many different entry-level skills as the community is looking for," Rockmaker said. "Each student is working towards individual goals to experience independence. Many of our students have a goal to achieve employment and support themselves one day."
Back in the classroom, students receive training in areas such as banking, cooking, and doing laundry.
"The students also learn how to get around in their community, and access those businesses and services that they'll need as adults," Rockmaker said.
Job placement is not a specific component of RISE's overall curriculum, but some students are referred to the state Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services upon completion of the program, to assist in the jobseeking process.
To find out more about RISE, check out their page on the Woodbridge Township School District website.
Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's evening news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015, email firstname.lastname@example.org, and listen for his live reports Monday through Thursday nights between 6:30 and 11 p.m.