High School High Tech with Arlene Jennings

Arlene Jennings spearheads CIL’s High School High Tech program, which exists to assists students with disabilities in making better more informed decisions about their career and their futures. HSHT is structured according to the nationally recognized, evidence-based Guideposts for Success: School-based Preperatory Experiences, Career Preparation & Work Based Learning, Youth Development & Leadership, Connecting Activities and Family Involvement & Support.

For more information: http://www.abletrust.org/
Contact: ajennings@cilncf.org


SPEAKERS: Arlene Jennings, Tony Delisle

Tony Delisle  00:00

Did you know that if you’re a student with a disability in the state of Florida, your graduation rate is around 65%. So 65% of people like you, as a student with a disability will graduate high school compared to around 88% of high school students without a disability. Did you know that the Center for Independent Living of North Central Florida offers a program called the high school high tech program, a program that we offer in five of our counties, a program that’s run in 40 some odd counties in the state of Florida, has a graduation rate of around 99% of students in its programs, does graduate high school, not only do they graduate high school, but once they graduate high school, they are by far more prepared for what life out of school looks like. These students have been in school for 12 or more years, the majority of their life, you know, nearly if not more than two thirds of their life has been spent in school, and now they’re out of school. And that’s not the time to try and figure out what you’re going to do. High School, high tech offers the immersive opportunities for its participants, the students with disabilities to explore different career opportunities that they may want to get into after they graduate high school. They do this through a different amount of program components that you’ll learn in this interview. But this is such a critical program and other programs out there like that, that are delivered by Centers for Independent Living that focus on what we call youth transitions. youth who are teenagers transitioning out of high school into post secondary life young adulthood. This is a critical juncture in the human growth and development. What happens during this transition can be largely predictive of the quality of life and even the longevity of life of people throughout their lifespan. This is a key transition in our growth and development. One that we are very excited to have a program that helps people succeed during this critical time in one’s life. So I’m very excited to introduce you to Arlene Jennings. She is the staff program coordinator for our high school high tech program. She’s got a tremendous amount of experience lived experiences and professional experiences that just make her an excellent resource for parents, for students and for her co workers that helped to deliver this wonderful program that is so just critical for students with disabilities to become successful young adults, older adults with disabilities and to live the best independent life that they possibly can. So I’m just so excited for Arlene Jennings to be with us today. All right. All right. Welcome back for another episode of The Independent Life and I am so honored to be joined with Arlene Jennings. She’s comes from our high school high tech program. She is the program coordinator for the program that program staff coordinator. She has a lot of experience in working with this great program which has to do with high school students with disabilities. Before we jump into this, Arlene, I was reflecting coming into this interview about one of the reasons I just really loved the high school high tech program and always have since coming on to the center, I think it largely has to do with when I was in high school, one of the most influential adults in my life ever, up until that point outside of my own mother and father was my high school biology teacher who also happened to be my swim coach, the impact that this man had on my life and the trajectory that it was on and to this day, the values that he helped to instill with me lives with me. So I did go on to be a high school teacher and coach and did many of those kinds of things, the largely due to his influence. And when I look at the high school high tech program, I see yourself and I see the other high school high tech coordinators who offer that same kind of opportunity to students to be this transformative adult figure in their life. Where if the students are open to it, you all would have I believe the same impact that this his name was co tre had on me. And it is a beautiful thing. And wonderful that you’re in that position to offer that and that’s one of the reasons when coming to the center here. I just really love that this program is offered and it is out there and wonderful people like you are on the front line. So you tell me online, the high school high tech program, what does it look like? What is it?

Arlene Jennings  04:50

High school high tech. Wow. It’s a lot. We can definitely sum it up to a career exploration program for high school. Students with disabilities but we definitely have so many goals in mind. But the main three is definitely to help them graduate through this really tough time. You know when high school it’s a jungle out there, but the the main goal is definitely we want successful graduation rates, high school Tech students have 99% success rate going through the program versus not with students with disabilities. For sure.

Tony Delisle  05:30

Yeah, high school graduation rates, I don’t mean to cut you off statewide for students with disabilities just around 65%. So it’s insane, a 99% graduation rate for students. So So first of all, how many counties does the high school high tech program?

Arlene Jennings  05:46

Um, I want to say it’s, it’s almost in every county, there’s a few that are left out? Definitely.

Tony Delisle  05:55

I believe we got Marian or…

Arlene Jennings  05:57

For our catchment area you’re talking about? Oh, well, yeah. Marion Levy, we have alachua, lateral, rural Bradford county and Putnam County at the moment. And then we’re looking to expand for sure.

Tony Delisle  06:11

Yeah, good. So you were in five counties. And I do believe that the high school high tech programs offered in about 40, some odd counties wide? Yeah. So out of the 67 counties, I think they’re in about two thirds of the ones I would never ask you to. County, is it’s hard enough name in the 16 that are in? Yes, it would be great to cover High School high tech program and each of those counties. So you’re in five counties, and roughly what around eight or nine high schools spread out throughout those counties? Yeah, at the moment, in each of the high school, high tech sites, so there’s eight or nine of them that are spread out there through those counties, how many at each of the sites are students enrolled in the program, so how many how many students per high school?

Arlene Jennings  06:55

Yeah, per county we try to go for, we have 15 students per County. And that may sound like a low number, but we do that, because this is such a, it’s such a great program, and we get really personal with the students. For the coordinators, that definitely takes a lot of time. And in order for that, for the program to be successful, we take the time with the students. So we need that the time in the low numbers, but they get so much, you know, out of the program, not just workshops, and you know, the guest speakers and that, but we go beyond reaching to the families as well.

Tony Delisle  07:36

Gotcha, gotcha. And so one of the things that I’m hearing there that’s really important is that it’s a holistic approach that you know, you really do get immersed in the lives of the students, and that does take a lot a bit of time. So that’s really good to know. Again, I really do believe it’s these connections in the close relationships that you all offer these high school students that are going to be the really transformative piece of really seeing the opportunities that are now out there because they’ve opened up themselves to you in the program and what has to offer So tell me, what does the program look like like you mentioned their workshops with you know, someone enrolled into this program, what are the different program components that they would expect to go through once enrolled into it?

Arlene Jennings  08:15

So once they get in there, but you know, we have bi-weekly workshops that we cover, like a vast range of different topics, whether it be interviewing skills, job skills, we work with, trying to prepare them as best as we can. So they will be ready to to be employable to get a job and then also to to go into a post secondary education you know, whatever track they want to go into, just prepare them for the real world out there. We bring in guest speakers of different backgrounds, we first start off with a career assessment just to see where they’re at what their interests are. And we can kind of build from that we also know not just the assessment like okay, it says if you want to be you know, a doctor but so we’re just gonna bring in doctors but also you know, what, what they might have interest other interest for. Our goal is to seek those different industries and careers in our local area, and then bring them to the students. So like I said, the guest speakers we also have industry tours, that we definitely love pre-COVID.

Tony Delisle  09:33

You’re, you’re going on site to some really exciting places in the community. Yeah, no, that really universities and other really high tech industries that are on the cutting edge of doing some things and even some, you know, industrial manufacturing some wonderful things. Yeah.

Arlene Jennings  09:50

Yeah, definitely we’ll all backgrounds but now actually, now during COVID is even I think they have a bit more opportunity. there because we’re doing virtual industry tours as well as field trips, and job shadowing. So on a weekly basis, we send them that information and still keep the information flowing to them. So that way, now that you know, they’re at a computer screen, but they can still get that tour, and learn a lot more about this particular industry. So they’re still getting that information.

Tony Delisle  10:23

It’s really good to hear technology being used for those means. So to summarize what you said, the high school high tech program offers bi weekly workshops on topics that are relevant to the interest of the students, and perhaps career paths and opportunities that they would maybe want to consider depending on their interests, the career assessment that you did at the beginning, and then bringing in the different guest speakers that might be in those industries to talk to them about what is really like the idea of it, and the reality of it, you know, kind of coming together. You also said before COVID, it was on site, it tours of industries, campuses, universities, but you also mentioned job shadowing, and internships, you know, and those are offered in the summertime, and many of the students take advantage of paid internships to be placed in some of those fields and industries that they’re shopping or seeming to be interested in. So yeah, that’s a lot to offer there, you know, throughout their experience, and what I really enjoy about these program components are is that it really is aiming to prepare them to be in the best position possible for when life happens after high school, post secondary is what we call it, that transition there from gubin. In high school, very structured, very, you know, kind of you’ve been in that system for 12 plus years is really what you know, for the majority of your life is that, and then to go into what’s life afterwards, like that, and to not be prepared, make that very difficult times, but it just sounds like what this program, they’re constantly being exposed to opportunities for, when that time does come, they’re gonna have way more insights into what they like or don’t like, and where they want to go and take their lives during that formative years. So you know, that’s just…


Yeah that’s important, that’s the difference between, you know, regular school, and then High School high tech, because it just gives them that holistic approach to what they want to do. And our goal is just to make sure that they are, they basically they can narrow it down to now they know, and they’re confident on what they decide on and then can focus on that because a lot of times, when you don’t have, you know, students don’t have that opportunity to leave, you know, job shadow or do an internship somewhere there, you know, out there, and then just trying, like, it’s just basically trial and error. And it’s like, if they can get that done, while in high school, then even better, they’re, they’re on their way to doing what they love. So are you know, we’re trying to figure out what they love, and it’s just like, oh, man, that’s a great program, I wish that this program was around when I was in high school, for sure.

Tony Delisle  12:59

It’s such a formative time in our, in our brain and body and the social things that are going on during the same time, and you’re trying to navigate these important decisions of what you like, and you don’t like and, you know, I imagine you’ve gotten some really good insight into some of the experiences that the students with disabilities who were in high school go through. So what are some of the challenges that you see across the board, in terms of students and or their parents with disabilities while negotiating? 

Arlene Jennings  13:26

Yeah, just trying to find resources out there, you know, because I hear a lot of complaints from parents of, there doesn’t seem to be much for my student out there, you know, and who do I go to for help when they when they need even advocacy, you know, for an IEP, you know, getting their, their accommodations, and they have a lot of challenges out there. And so we’re there not only as high school, high tech, we do advocacy for them, you know, when it comes to like, say, their IEP, and they’re not, you know, getting their accommodations and stuff like that we don’t we also join them in their IEP meetings, just to make sure that they’re getting those services and other services that they may be missing out on. And definitely another challenge for those students is, after high school, they’re like, well, now what, you know, and I seemed like a lot of times they feel like their student, or their child is left out, you know, the regular, I will say, you know, the normal thing after a student graduates like, oh, we’re going off to college, but it’s like, well, there’s, there’s so much to that process as well, you know, and a lot of times we have grandparents that are raising their, their grandchildren, and they have to figure that part out as well. There’s so many and I connected them into the community, just like Well, where do I go for this information and thankfully, though, definitely is a big resource for them. You know, not just high school, high tech, but you know, other programs and so that high school program is That, that gateway for them, then they go in and get the help that they need not just for them but their family. And then their family goes and spread the word as well.

Tony Delisle  15:10

The best way to spread the word and speaking of words, tell Nova Joy we said hi. Thank you for sharing mommy for the interview. Beautiful to hear. can see the beautiful, beautiful? Five months? Yeah. Okay, Nova Joy. I love it, I love it. So I’m really glad that you brought up the biggest challenges is resources. In our field, Human Services is typical, understaffed, underfunded on having the materials as well. And that’s certainly out there. For a lot of families and students with disabilities. That is a reality. However, there are often resources many of us are not even aware of, right underneath our nose sometimes, and it is coming across an agency, like the Center for Independent Living, or the high school high tech program. And that can be a doorway, like No Wrong Door is sometimes being talked about now is like, once you go through this door, we can lead you to other doors that have resources. So no wrong door once you get to us. So I love that you brought up that point of this aspect of the program, but also the habit. So above and beyond the bi-weekly workshops, and whether it’s virtual, or on site, industry tours, or the job shadowing, or the internships, it’s real advocacy. And this is where he said I think the holistic approach at the beginning, where you really let off and saying, we really get into the lives of the people that we’re working with. It’s real immersion, like a lot of this is immersion, you know, immersing people into the experiences versus telling them about it, all these emerging kind of things, and to be a part of an Individualized Education Plan. Meeting, IEP meeting with parents shows a level of trust and assurance that we’re here for them to advocate on their behalf during these important times where decisions are needing to be made with school officials and school officials can know that we’re here to also be an ally with them as we’re trying to really work together and those kinds of things. So I really am glad that you’re highlighting, you know, that important part of it and everything else. And to that end, do you have any like recommendations like if you, you know, in terms of being able to collaborate with schools, I know you also do a lot of work with the high school high tech program on that. And as all the other coordinators do, in terms of building relationships with the high schools to get the approval to run the program. Often you’re asking, we’re asking the schools for your time and space and access to information. And so it’s a relationship that obviously has to be forged there. So do you have any like recommendations or tips or experiences and in what it’s like to collaborate with schools and to get buy in for programs like this or anything like that they can get the inside scoop for other people that are really talking?

Arlene Jennings  18:00

Yeah. Definitely the statistics, showing the numbers and letting them you know, being transparent and letting them know like, this is a great program, we do we keep numbers, we can show them the success rates, graduation rates definitely exceeds. And then also, we focus on getting testimonials from parents and students, past students as well. Because word of mouth is is most important, the results speak for themselves. Once you left, the school officials know what we’re about what we do, the commitment that it is from the student and also you know from them, it’s minimal commitment, really, we just need the help of you know, just help us select the students because they know which students are most you know, motivated and just ready to go and that’s pretty much it, show them the numbers and once you’re in the program will speak for itself. But definitely I think schools who can see that their students with disabilities need more support is great, because when the schools can be there to support the ones with disabilities, especially because the numbers are climbing, you know, each year, there’s different diagnosis of disabilities that are out there. So when it becomes like the majority then it’s like, okay, we have a lot of these students and they need resources, they need help. So it’s like why not have high school high tech in there along with VR and you know, all the other all the other agencies because they need as much help as they can get, you know.

Tony Delisle  18:07

Yeah, it’s a real all hands on deck, you know, approach when we really look at like you were saying the, you know, the sheer number of students that there are in the school system in the state of Florida, it’s a very big state, and then that percentage of students that have disabilities, and then the resources that are potentially there for them again, we always can do better and, you know, having more qualified professionals who have their heart in the right And, you know, more funding to do some of the services and programs and materials and everything. I want everybody to hear what you said about how, when you make contact with schools, you shown the data from the program, I know the abl trust who holds the contracts for these high school high tech programs to be run has a lot of benchmarks and are very quiet, you know, viable and their assessments or their programs, and you have these important numbers about the benefits of the program, the graduation rates, all these other kinds of things that really, you know, speak to the logical rational data driven, you know, kind of mindset of decision makers and public schools would say, like to be very data driven, but then to have the testimonials I’m really glad that you brought that in, you know, from hearing it, whether from students or parents with this program is meant to them, what it’s done for them, and all those other kinds of things then gets to the other side of the heart. And and, and I really do think both of those levers of the mind and the heart really need to be pulled in when we’re working with, you know, you’re collaborating with people, and certainly the high school high tech program has got both of those going for it. So what have you found? Have you found like in the, in the COVID pandemic? Are there more barriers? And if so, like, what have you done to you know, get get around them in terms of collaborating with schools?

Arlene Jennings  21:13

Oh, yeah, for because, you know, everyone is used to them soon be the old school face to face. That that definitely is challenging, when you can be there in person to, you know, give a presentation and say, Hey, you know, this is what our program does is what we’re about, you know, because you can, they can feel that once you’re there, you know, that that’s a bit of a barrier, you know, especially like reaching out to them. So we’re trying to, you know, tack them down with emails, and sometimes it’s not always, you know, yeah, for sure.

Tony Delisle  21:54

Yeah. Well so speaking of that, you know, with COVID and being distanced and the importance of like you’re saying contact and I can’t think of a more important time in terms of you know, human growth and development that is more important to have that peer to peer contact than in adolescence then in high school and here they are in a time where they’ve been stripped away of a lot of that on top of having to go through high school and then you know, negotiating that with a disability so you can you talk to some of the experiences that you’ve seen from the students that you know, have disabilities what are their challenges now? Are they are you seeing anything unique or anything else like that, or you know, that connectivity?

Arlene Jennings  22:33

You’re talking about right now, what you’re seeing right now? Yeah, for sure. Because they definitely especially the ones that we had, you know, years prior they they definitely see the difference? You know, I hear a lot I wish we didn’t have our meetings, you know, together again, and we know we can go on industry tours, of course, you know, and then even trickles down into internships because they’re not able to do an on site internship as you know, as much as they were able to before so they definitely miss seeing each other being there as a group together. They do enjoy the virtual workshops that we have on zoom, and at least getting to see their face. You know, we did something really different this year. We always have a holiday party in December and we, you know..

Tony Delisle  23:26

Ended the year especially. Yeah, another program component that is really fun.

Arlene Jennings  23:32

Oh yeah. The month yeah, I feel like they enjoy that a lot. So we that looked very different this year, we did it we had a virtual holiday party. And you know, they play games and had fun and you know, to all of our surprises like that was it was fun, you know, as fun as we could make it. And they they really enjoyed themselves and then we distributed like prizes later on. So everyone who participated definitely got you know, a prize and we just had to deliver that at a later date. Things are possible.

Tony Delisle  24:07

Very creative. Yeah, I think at the end of last year when everything was shut down for graduation, and we usually have an end of the year celebration and really celebrate all the participants and you’ll give out some awards and have even some alumni come back so in this year, I think you all delivered a lot of like goodie bags and all kinds of other treats and assortment acknowledgments out to people where they lived and that was a huge.

Arlene Jennings  24:31

They really enjoyed that, they did and you know, and each coordinator can be as creative as possible. So I, I didn’t believe they have the graduation balloons. And we do a certificate or participation graduation certificate and just really thanks them for being in the program and to show that we appreciate them that’s really at the end of the day, you know, just being acknowledged is important to them, but when we actually got to go to their house and deliver it, you know, that was that was the whole Another element there yeah and the parents definitely really appreciated that as well yeah I think it was just that next step that you won’t get from school you know school they’re gonna kill her stuff but you know you know it’s definitely good I call it you know we’re like another parent Just think of it as like another I would say it’s not really a parent like oh you better do you know as in discipline but just more of an ally another link because they say it takes a jungle to raise a child right? But and so it’s just like once they are in the program they it’s much more they become a family they become part of the family and then it’s just like I make it my personal duty that just to be sure that they’re okay checking in on them not just the students but the parents as well. And is there anything that you need asking that question Is there anything that you need to know Yeah, and when you’re able to sit and listen you learn more of what’s going on or even if they like they say no, but you know, I’ve been having this issue with getting food and it’s like oh, did you know that we have a program that actually you know that has food you know, and we can and then arranging that setting that up just makes it so much more you gain their trust with that if they know that you have their well being at hand you know, and…

Tony Delisle  26:26

Yeah, we’ll wrap our big service arms around these families like he said, we were able to get some food over to some families that were experiencing some food insecurities because a program that we picked up and I love it when our programs work together across each other and this has definitely been one program hi sky tech, you know Vinny that does a lot of this you know cross program working I know you do with our employment programs as well. What is it you would want other people to know about high school students with disabilities and their families or anything that they’re there about? we’re doing we’re working with them for so long as you have been you know, I’ve know you’ve probably met so many and all different kinds of types and what would you want people to know through the experiences that you’ve had with them?

Arlene Jennings  27:21

I want them to know it’s just it’s a great program and you just become part of such a bigger family you know, definitely build a lifelong lifelong memories that you’ll you’ll keep and you’ll always you know you’ll always have that and then also you make lifelong friends as well a part of that a lot of the kids they they now they’re from even from different counties they stage numbers just because you know we went on a field trip together and now they they’re friends you know and so whenever they meet you know, over at a workshop, you know, a virtual workshop now that we can all see each other more like Hey, how’s it going and then join me We’ll talk later and also and this great, it’s really great, it’s a great great family and then also you know, students they reach back out to us once they graduate you know, it’s not over it’s not over then you know, we’re here. We’re kind of like, like honestly, it’s just a family.

Tony Delisle  28:25

It’s like the mafia family family you know. Arlene you got so much energy and enthusiasm and joy in what you do and you lead with it and and so what what is it that motivates you about this program? It seems something that really inspires you you know, what about it really inspires you and makes you so enthusiastic?

Arlene Jennings  28:52

I have a love for helping others really think with anybody who works in this they have to have that passion though to help others but also working with students with disabilities I can identify with that and understand especially in high school high school was a big struggle for me was the ending like senior year I didn’t think I would make it through even though you know I maintain A’s and B’s and you know, I was that dude I can make good grades but you know, the support at one point I didn’t feel was there and I struggled so much to the point where I didn’t think I was going to graduate you know, and having a mentor there and I feel like that would have been amazing. That’s part of that’s what I needed. That’s what I needed. And I also was a teen parents. So I know I got pregnant in high school, because going through that it will just rough it was it was tough, and I felt like there were no resources or I didn’t know where to go where to turn and so I definitely like Every day is like, I don’t want a student to go through that, you know, if they don’t have to, oh, that’s like, that’s, that’s why I’m here. Like, you’re not going to go through that, you know, what I did so.

Tony Delisle  30:13

So do you feel like those experiences and challenges you had, as a student, you know, your high school career and as a teenage mom have prepared you to be a better High School, you know, high tech staff?

Arlene Jennings  30:26

Oh yeah for sure. And I think my first year I had a teen mom. And I definitely like I kind of like clung to her and it’s like, Listen, you know, don’t give up you know, I’m here to like a lot of family support as well, but it’s just like, I just I, you know, just want to make sure you know, that they get everything that they need, even just reaching out if it is just reaching out to a teacher, and letting her know, because a lot of times my… But um, a lot of times, like even the teacher like didn’t know, so of what’s going on or, you know, if you’re struggling or Yeah, and if you’re struggling with work, or, you know, giving them that confidence, the lesson like hey, just tell your teacher, you know what’s going on, or just and if they don’t feel comfortable doing that, at least having someone that they can reach out to giving them their options, because at that time, it’s important to know what your options are at a time. Because if you don’t know, then it’s like, how would you get there? You know, so…

Tony Delisle  31:34

Yeah, it’s about knowing where your resources are, you know, again, you know, going back to that just even knowing what’s out there. So would you say that, you know, again, like, those tough experiences allowed you to have, then the skills to that are benefiting you now, and the ability to reach parents reach students and everything else like that. So I guess in other words, you know, we can really learn and grow from our challenges and our struggles, and perhaps, I don’t know if sufferings, overstating it, but you know, just those kinds of things that we go through, can then all of a sudden be what really propels us forward. And other aspects of you give back because of that, that’s just for me, if I’m, if I’m being challenged, or if I feel like I’m suffering through something, or are going through those things, to have a purpose and a for a reason and to give back to others is couldn’t be a better reason that are going through those challenges, or that might be suffering and those other kinds of things. So it’s good to give back, it’s good to give back. Well Arlene, to kind of summarize, you know, and put a bow on everything that we talked about the high school high tech program is run through 40 some odd counties in the state of Florida, in our catchment area of 16 counties, we’re in about five of the counties across about eight schools. And within the each of those is around 15 students per program in which they get immersed into experiences that can really help them better understand what they would like to do once they graduate and leave high school. And those manifests into bi weekly workshops about topics and things that are relevant to their interest, guest speakers that are aligned with what they are interested in doing nowadays is more virtual tours and virtual job shadowing, but still doing internships, as well, some holiday events that happen providing resources to families, like you said, you know, making sure that people know of all the different things that are out there and available to them to be supportive them may be that bridge in connection to all those wonderful things. But also you said as an advocate, you know, to sit in on those IEP meetings to sit next to those family members to work alongside the schools and to be able to do that. And you also you know, really, I think put it, quite frankly in bluntly about how to really get people to collaborate. Show them the numbers shown that it’s effective by that and then pull on their heartstrings. And by doing both, you’re probably more likely to get buy in and, and I love how you’re motivated because of your real life and lived experiences. I don’t think anyone can be a better expert and living through the experiences that you have, you know, being somebody that you said, you know, Did, did have the challenges and difficulties their senior year, being somebody that you know, as a teenage mom, and going through those challenges, you now have a lot of wisdom to share other people that are going through it and can be of comfort and support to them. And I got to tell you, that was really meaningful to hear you share that and it makes sense that you’re such a high quality, professional, but also one that delivers that personal heart along with it. And when you reach out and touch people so I want to acknowledge you for just like somebody that’s just like any for all the right reasons and experiences and connect with so many different kinds of, you know, people and various personalities and especially with high school students. So let me ask you that as a question, you know, what is some of the keys into relating to high school students with disability? That takes a certain skill set, right? Give us some tips! You seem to do it quite fluently.

Arlene Jennings  34:50

It takes some work, but you gotta just keep it real with them because it’s like, you know, it is like, fresh meat walking in. They’ll sniff that out .If you’re not real, like they’re, you know, they definitely, you know, be yourself. Right? Yeah. And just show them that you’re there for them. Because once you go in and and start bossing them around, it’s like, oh, yeah, that’s another person, you know, it’s…

Tony Delisle  35:19

No one likes to be told what to do.

Arlene Jennings  35:21

Right, then if they look at you, like another teacher, too, sometimes they kind of, you know, you have to show like, we’re more like, we’re more than just the teacher, okay, you know, for sure how. I have an open dialogue, you know, ask them what they want to do, you know, because I, I think the most with, even though it’s like four years, I feel like it’s been a while, you know, but each year, I want to do better from the last year, but I realized that it’s what they make it, let them design the course. And you just kind of go off of them, asking them those questions like, Okay, what do we want to talk about what industries we want to get into, you know, like, because I’m, I can give you guys anything, you know, but I want to know what you’re interested in. And even if, you know, you may not want to know, you may not know what you want to do. Because we get that a lot. You know, like, I don’t know what I want to do. And I feel a little insecure about them. It’s like, you know, that’s not fair to ask you what you want to do for the rest of your life. You know, it’s just like, what do you have an interest in? And then, you know, and go off, go from there, and kinda we fill in on? We build on top of that. Yeah, you know, so I think you gave some real good tips there. So so be real, be yourself, be authentic. Don’t be opposed to trying to pretend you’re right, you know, and it’s hard at that age before putting all kinds of masks out there. Yeah. But you know, being being your authentic self and being open, like you said, be open, and communicate, don’t boss people around telling them what to do. And ask them what they want to do. And you know, have them have a hand on the wheel, and creative freedom, you know, to do those kind of things. So those are, I think, some really good applicable tangible tips for any one of us out there that might be wanting to really connect with people in high school.

Tony Delisle  36:52

Let them know you’re there for them. Really, it’s like I’m here for you. So to do this, you know, Show up, yeah, show up and show me don’t sell me. Yeah, they can sniff that out. Well, Arlene, it’s wonderful having you on, thank you so much. For all the great work that you do, I look forward to bringing you and perhaps others, the students, alumni from the program back on here and just talking to them about their experiences, what they learned, you know, where they’re at, where their aspirations are, you know, what challenges, you know what their purpose is, as well and get a better lens into the life of students, high school students with disabilities.

Arlene Jennings  37:55

Thanks for having me Tony, and I’m sure that, I know, I’m sure there’s some that are out there, they would love to be on this show and share their experiences.

Tony Delisle  38:02

Lets get them on, let’s get them on, I want to I want to dive deeper and expand into that world and into the lens of the world. You know, I think it’s important for all of us to recognize and realize, you know, it is our future, they’re real people, and they have so much to offer and to contribute. And you know, we were all in high school at one time, you know, and I don’t know about you, but like, I know, when I talk to other people, we almost I almost feel like I still am 16 in some way. Like there’s this timeless spirit energy, like feeling of, you know, that age and life. And there’s something special about it. And in independent living, and especially in those years for anyone with or without disabilities is is a huge, important aspect that people are going to be growing into and learning. And this program positions, people that are in it to succeed at that critical transition that really sets the trajectory for certainly young adulthood into middle adulthood and late adulthood that transition there. You know, it, it can predict a lot, it’ll predict a lot down the road on what happens. So it’s really wonderful that, you know, you champion a program that really positions people to be in the best place possible to be as successful as possible in a whole list of ways.

Arlene Jennings  39:11

Yeah. And I just encourage, if anybody wants to learn more about high school, high tech, they can go on the website, theabletrust.org. Yep. Yeah. Definitely has a lot of information, resources, but you know, because it’s not in every school. And it looks different in every county to depending on you know, which county you go into, like in the Orlando area, they’re in the school system, you know, and it’s like as a class so on their website, you can see county by county and what coordinators that are out there and you can contact them and then go from there.

Tony Delisle  39:50

Well, it’d be great to have this program in all the counties and certainly we’ll work towards you know, doing that with Abel in our in our catchment area. That’d be wonderful. All right. Well, Arlene Thank you so much Thank Nova Joy for sharing you. Yes. So Arlene to you and The Tndependent Life, we’re out. Onward and upward. Till next time, take care.

Amy Feutz  40:18

Thanks for listening to The Independent Life podcast brought to you by the Center for Independent Living of North Central Florida. If you like what you hear, please rate review and subscribe. And if you know anyone who might benefit from listening, share this podcast and invite them to subscribe to for questions, suggestions, or if you have a story you’d like to share, please email us cilncf.org@gmail.com for call us at 352-378-7474. Thanks for joining us. Until next time, support, advocate and empower each other to live the independent life.