High schools need to teach students the skills to successfully enter the “real world” after graduation, Eric Jankoski said.
For all students, and especially for his special needs classes, navigating public transportation is one of the greatest skills to have.
“For our students, especially our special needs students, it’s a big transition from high school to whatever they choose to do next,” said Jankoski, a transition coordinator with Baldwin High School’s Special Education department. “This is one thing we’ve been doing to prepare them for the future.”
A Port Authority bus was parked in the Baldwin High School parking lot Tuesday as part of a travel awareness program that began in January.
Individual transportation instruction has always been available for students, but Jankoski said this is the first year it’s been taught as a class. About 30 students are participating in the program.
Michael Beigay, a travel instructor with Allegheny Intermediate Unit, visits the special needs classes once a week, teaching students how to read bus schedules, plan a trip, pay bus fares, use tickets and more.
Later this year, he plans to take the classes on bus trips around the area to give students real-life experience.
“This helps them see the options that are available to them as they transition from school into the adult world,” he said. “Some students won’t be able to drive, and this opens up other options for them.”
Scott Pearson, an instructor and operator for the Port Authority, brought students on board the bus Tuesday and showed them how to pay for a bus ride, where to sit and how to safely affix a wheelchair to one of two ports—he explained that a Port Authority operator always would be available to help.
Deborah Skillings, community outreach coordinator for the Port Authority, also was there to talk to students. She said the Port Authority takes this program very seriously, because it helps them better serve a large population of riders.
“They are our riders,” Skillings said. “We have the Committee for Accessible Transportation to work on making public transportation safer and more accessible for riders with disabilities. It’s important for us to educate people.”
Beigay, who has conducted similar programs in other districts, said the program has proven successful. He knew of a recent Baldwin High School graduate who completed a one-on-one version of the program and now takes public transportation into Pittsburgh daily for work.
“That’s one of our success stories, and all of these kids can do that,” he said.
Instructors also talked with students about ConnectCards, which are new, and are available to all riders through the Port Authority and at participating Giant Eagles. For more information, click here.
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