Students with disabilities at Saugerties High School will sow the seeds of career success in the coming years, thanks to a $744,520 state grant. The “Program Grant to Prepare Students with Disabilities to Exit School with Work Readiness Skills” will fund the Saugerties Graduation Requirements through Occupational Work Study (Grows) program from the current school year through the 2017-2018 school year.
The grant is intended to help districts expand their career and technical education course offerings and provide hands-on work experience to students with disabilities so that they may earn the career development and occupational studies (CDOS) commencement credential approved by New York State in 2013. The CDOS credential recognizes a student’s preparation and training for post-secondary employment.
Saugerties Grows will give students with mild to moderate disabilities greater exposure to career clusters in areas such as environmental science, technology, family and consumer science, economics, web development, advertising, art and other disciplines.
The focal point of the program will be the construction of a greenhouse, vegetable garden, and farmstand on the Saugerties High School campus. Students will grow organic vegetables and other produce and create products such as pies, jams, maple syrup, and seasonal wreaths, all of which will be sold at the farmstand. In addition, students will gain practical experience in customer service, sales, accounting, marketing and other areas.
The students eligible to participate are the largest population of students with disabilities at Saugerties High School. Though they are part of the mainstream general education population pursuing Regents diplomas, many are considered at-risk for graduation. They need opportunities to gain work skills in order to earn the CDOS credential.
Saugerties Grows will provide those opportunities.
“This grant gives us the financial means to create a school-based enterprise,” said Deborah Nuzzo, the district’s transition coordinator who first envisioned the greenhouse and farmstand idea. In close collaboration with Ulster BOCES grants coordinator Bonnie Meadow, Nuzzo put time and energy into filing the grant application on short notice,.
Superintendent Seth Turner said the grant will allow students to grow and flourish, even if their gifts don’t lie in the traditional academic disciplines. “Through this grant, we will be tapping into students with outstanding levels of intelligence that might not be demonstrated in our established classrooms,” Turner said. “It’s extremely exciting.”
Turner added that the various agricultural festivals held in Saugerties each year prove there’s a market for the homemade and home-grown products the program will offer to the community. “This has the potential to turn into something very unique,” he said. The district will develop program details in the coming months.
Saugerties secondary school principal Thomas Averill was also enthusiastic. “To see almost $750,000 is just amazing,” he said. “This is definitely going to benefit our students. I can’t wait.”
Ulster BOCES district superintendent Dr. Charles Khoury expected the program to create a rich educational harvest for other schools in Ulster County as well. “We will all benefit from the lessons, ideas, and programs that will be offered in Saugerties,” Khoury said. “Congratulations. It is thrilling for the students and teachers in Saugerties to be so recognized.”
Saugerties school board president Robert Thomann was happy, too. The grant was “something that’s good for kids” that will not impact the taxpayers, he said. “This is the way things are supposed to work, everyone coming together for the good of our students.”
The grant funds will also be used for staffing and infrastructure for the new CDOS curriculum, and for professional development for staff involved in its implementation.
District officials also plan to work closely with local and state businesses to ensure that the program gives students the skills they need to be successful in the world of work. Nuzzo said owners of local farms and agricultural businesses will present workshops to students to enrich their CDOS experience.