by Julia Robbins ’20
The Functional Life Skills Program, part of Special Education, is where the students are working to earn a certificate of completion of high school rather than a diploma. A few years ago, the program received a grant to start a school-based business through Montgomery County’s Department of Transition to help the students gain valuable vocational skills to utilize after they graduate.
In addition to their coffee business, the program now makes and sells greeting cards with beautiful embroiderments and designs. They produce birthday, graduation, retirement, best wishes, holidays, thank you, and congratulations cards. They also take special orders in bulk quantities. Carla Kaufman, one of their teachers, uses the money that they earn for community-based instruction and field trips, allowing the special education students learn outside of the classroom.
“I am very proud of the students who put these cards together,” states Kaufman. “From my prospective, I find it very exciting when I uncover a hidden talent that a student may have. I found that one student with autism has an amazing ability to look at a picture or object and quickly draw it freehand. It takes a little extra effort on the part of the teachers, but in the long run it is worth it.”
They make the cards themselves, during 3rd, 4th, and 6th periods. Making them is a very hands-on task, and they can produce about 10 cards a day. After looking online for card ideas, the teachers create templates and patterns for the students to follow. They also use rubber stamps and vibrant color in the designs. The students learn vocational skills, including counting money, tracking sales, and depositing money into the business office’s account. They even learn to operate equipment, like a Cricut Die Cutting Machine that cuts out intricate designs. The students fold the cards and round the corners, as well. They also develop communication skills when they go around selling the cards.
The cards are also displayed in the faculty lounges for all the teachers, and they are also sold at the Institution Boutique in Olney. They are currently working on marketing to the general public. While it is not currently marketed out to the students, anyone can go to D221 and purchase a card for 1 dollar in Mrs. Kaufman’s room.
Rather than earning a diploma, the FLS students earn a certificate for the completion of high school. The students learn vital skills that they can use after their completion of high school. The life skills learned while making these cards will largely help them later in life when they have a job and are earning a living for themselves.