One in nine kids in the United States receives special education services, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But when those kids grow up, where do they go for the support they need?
According to Kelsey Hartsell, who works with special needs students at Steilacoom High School, they don’t have many options.
“Once they graduate high school, which for many of them is between 18 and 21 years old, there’s nothing,” said Hartsell, who has been a registered behavioral therapist for almost eight years. “There’s nothing regular and nothing steady.”
Seeds for Growth, a community center in the works for teens and adults across the spectrum of special needs, hopes to change that.
“What I’m hoping is that it will impact them positively, giving them a place to feel connected, giving them a place to feel wanted and needed, like they have a community of their own,” said Hartsell, the public relations liaison for Seeds for Growth.
Seeds for Growth is offering events at several locations in Lacey for now, but hopes to create a permanent location in the near future where it can provide opportunities to learn vital life and work skills, including farming, food preparation and basic office skills.
The program will begin regularly providing classes the first Monday in October. Classes will be Monday and Friday at South Sound Parent to Parent and Wednesday at North Thurston Service Center. Classes and events are open to anyone older than 14 who feels differently abled, according to Hartsell.
Monday classes will focus on gentle motion, yoga and stretching, and Wednesday classes on cooking skills. Friday? That’s game night, but still a learning opportunity. Hartsell hopes to provide board games that encourage social interaction.
Seeds for Growth also has several outings in the works, including a bowling day provided by Tumwater Lanes, one of many local businesses lending its support.
A fee will initially be required to participate in events, but Hartsell hopes donations and fundraising activities, including a coffee shop where members can work on food prep and money handling skills, will eventually allow services to be provided for free. Until then, members’ volunteer hours will go toward subsidizing their class and outing fees.
Seeds for Growth held a block party, its first official event, on Saturday afternoon in the South Sound Parent to Parent parking lot.
“We want to show our patrons that they are embraced and included and valued in our community by everyone,” Weyland said.
Want to help?
Seeds for Growth is seeking board members and volunteers. If you’re interested or have questions about the community center, contact them at 360-239-8834 or via email at seedsfor firstname.lastname@example.org.