The Student News Site of Oregon State University

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The Student News Site of Oregon State University

The Daily Barometer

The Student News Site of Oregon State University

The Daily Barometer

WINGS transition program aims to spread ableism awareness

Jules Wood
Andres Reyes and Piper Ross eat lunch together at McNary Dining Hall, April 4, 2024

Like wings help birds to fly, special education programs can be one effective way to help students with special needs transition into the surrounding community and adulthood. 

The WINGS Transition Program teaches special education students who graduated high school with a modified or adapted diploma in Work Experience, Instruction, Networking, Goal-Setting and Self-Determination, where it derives its name from, according to Rachel Stalter, a special education teacher at the program. 

The current program has gotten so large that it has split into two locations in Corvallis: Crescent Valley and College Hill. Both locations have the same goals, but the students at each site may work at different paces or independent levels, Stalter said. 

The College Hill WINGS students and staff are currently focusing on spreading awareness about people with disabilities and ableism, Stalter said. Students are learning to advocate for themselves in the workplace, communicate their needs to job sites and bring attention to people with disabilities. 

The program is currently aiming to create packets and spread awareness about ableism, values and beliefs that discriminate against people with disabilities, according to the Center for Disability Rights.

According to a document developed by the WINGS program, the packets educate the community on Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, sensory processing disorders, autism and physical and intellectual disabilities. Part of the education focuses on how job sites and community members can respectfully accommodate folks with disabilities. 

Stalter said their work is concluded with examples of subtle ableist remarks, actions and microaggressions that people with disabilities have to deal with.

Spreading awareness is one of the best ways to promote understanding and patience, creating more inclusive and safe communities that accept people with disabilities. 

The program accommodates a wide range of needs, Stalter said. Every student is unique and the program aims to support each individual academically, fiscally and emotionally.

The WINGS program differs from traditional schooling–no credits are earned or received. Stalter said the goal is to have the students out in the community, volunteering, eating out and learning, the Corvallis community being their classroom. 

“It’s really important for my students to be exposed to and seen in the community,” Stalter said.

Students volunteer to work at one of the 25 local job sites daily, the goal being to gain work experience and learn functional independent living skills and self-advocacy, according to Stalter. 

Stalter said some of the favorite job sites among students are run by Oregon State University, including Kid Spirit, Beaver Beginnings, Dixon Recreation Center and the Boat House, where they spend their Tuesdays and Thursdays.  

Andres Reyes, a WINGS student, dreams of becoming an actor and comedian. His favorite job site is the Majestic Theater, where he works with real actors and people in the industry. 

Reyes said he appreciates the job coaches and everyone is friendly. 

Every week, the students go to SamFit to learn about personalized fitness plans specialized in cardio and muscle strength, according to Stalter. They also swim at the Osborn Aquatic Center pools, spend time in local parks and walk the community trails. 

Piper Ross, a WINGS student, loves the SamFit program and was very excited when they learned about bike safety on the Corvallis streets. 

Every month, students go on field trips outside of Corvallis to places like the University of Oregon, the coast, museums and other places that cater to student interest. 

The classroom portion of their days is held at one of five community learning centers, according to the program’s online website. One of the favorites is the Corvallis-Benton County Library, according to Stalter.

Slater said that during these classroom sessions, students focus on their academics, learn about disability awareness and acceptance, friendship and dating and many soft skills, like how to keep a job. 

Six members of OSU’s Sigma Kappa sorority and Pi Kappa Phi fraternity recently helped teach a session during the Friendship and Dating class, Stalter said. Students learned how to ask girls out, plan dates, what to ask on dates and all things related to relationships. 

Ross, Reyes and Anthony Ortiz, another student in the WINGS program, enjoyed meeting the OSU students and would love to learn from them again. 

Being a young adult is about learning how to live in the real world, and college students learn life skills very similar to those in the WINGS program, Stalter said. OSU students are always encouraged to organize a time to reach out and speak to and with WINGS students.

Peer advising with WINGS students are always welcome and encouraged, and internships with WINGS can be arranged for interested students.  

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