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SAIL Program


New Program Launches This September in Paynesville Area

This September, the Paynesville Area will see the launch of a new program called SAIL (Skills for Adulthood and Independent Living). SAIL is a transition program designed for students aged 18-22 with disabilities. It provides these students with additional time after their graduating year to focus on independent living skills, recreation and leisure activities, and job training. Each student’s participation is decided by their educational team, based on individual circumstances and needs.

The program will be held at the UZone house, owned by Grace United Methodist Church. Program leaders Laurie Fevig and Jasmine Wolters have been planning SAIL for many months and are eager to see it start this fall. The program will include three paraprofessionals, and applications are currently being accepted.

“It is hard to teach some of the independent living skills in a school setting. Operating the program out of a house will give students a realistic environment to learn cooking and cleaning skills, identify fun recreation and leisure activities, and learn how to take care of a home,” explained Fevig. “They will also be out in the community working on job skills. This brand-new program is designed to meet those needs in a better way.”

“Students will get to experience all the tasks that come with owning or renting a home, such as calling a plumber to fix a faucet or an electrician about the AC not working. There won’t be a custodial or maintenance crew, so all of those tasks will be handled by the students with adult guidance. We also want to show them how to be competitive employees by starting off with soft job skills such as punctuality, hygiene, and conflict resolution,” added Wolters. “Students will work on these skills at the house and in the Paynesville community, learning in real-time while working at local businesses. The goal is for these young adults to take these skills back to their hometowns and enter the workforce.”

The program has been in discussion for many months at West Central Education District (WCED), which includes the districts of Sauk Centre, Melrose, Albany, and Paynesville. Fevig explained that the initiative received support from superintendents, secondary administrators, and special education teachers before being approved by the WCED school board in March. Extensive planning has taken place since then.

Fevig, the current Executive Director for WCED, has been hearing the need for this program for years and is excited to see it come to fruition. “WCED as a whole has had this as a goal for years, and I am so appreciative of the superintendents and board for supporting the program for the students in our member districts,” she said.

Wolters, who was hired as the teacher to run the program, shared her personal motivation. “Through my career as I learned more about 18-22 programs and reflected on how beneficial it was for my sister with Down Syndrome, I knew my career was headed toward focusing on that older age group. When I came to Paynesville and the conversation of 18-22 programming began, I saw there was a need in the area to support these students after high school. I am excited to be part of SAIL and support students into adulthood.”

While the program will be held in Paynesville, it will initially serve students from Sauk Centre, Melrose, Albany, and Paynesville. Fevig and Wolters hope to expand the program in the future to include students from other neighboring districts. They have already received a positive response from the community and local business owners, with some offering support and donations.

Superintendent Janell Bullard has shown strong support, indicating that the SAIL Program can use a classroom at Paynesville Area High School for large group activities, as the UZone house has limited space. The high school will also provide meals through their lunch program, and students will learn how to access the PACC for recreation activities.

Willmar and St. Cloud school districts offer similar programs, but their capacity is limited. In the past, Paynesville would send students to Willmar, but Fevig and Wolters emphasize the importance of having a program in a small town like Paynesville. “It allows students to learn in a realistic small-town setting and maintain their hometown pride,” said Wolters.

For its first year, SAIL has ten students enrolled: four from Sauk Centre, three from Albany, and three from Paynesville. The program will start in September and follow the regular school year schedule. The program's name, SAIL, was chosen by the first students enrolled, who felt it symbolized “sailing into the next chapter of our lives.”

As the program prepares for its first year, Fevig and Wolters are seeking additional help. The program needs three paraprofessionals. For donations, paraprofessional applications, or to discuss job shadowing and business opportunities, please contact Jasmine Wolters at jwolters@wced6026.com.

“We are giving these individuals more support and guidance so they will be ready to move onto the next stage, whatever that may be,” said Wolters.

West Central Education District9 Second St SWMelrose, MN  56352

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

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