A town gem

TAP program benefits students, community

by Eric A Thomas

The road to success is measured by many things, but for some, that road can be bumpy. The foundation of success for most people is education. In 2001, Jacksonville School District 117 started a program to help students navigate that bumpy road.

In 2001, the federal government passed legislation saying that students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) were entitled to receive services until the day before they turned 22 years old. The State of Illinois hads since amended the law to say that students can be a part of the program through the school year in which they turn 22 years old.

The District 117 Transitional Adult Program (TAP) was started under Director of Special Services Helen Klosterman. Diane Storey served as the original teacher/facilitator.

Nine students are currently enrolled in the program. Bailey Brammeier is the teacher and Shelby Emmons is the paraprofessional.

Brammeier took over the reins of the program during the 2019-2020 school year when Storey retired and relocated to Colorado.

“The concept came out of necessity, but has grown into so much more,” says Brammeier. “At TAP the main goal is to gain independence and we focus on vocational and life skills.” All of the training the students receive is geared to help them be as independent and successful as possible.

Getting into the program is an IEP team decision. All students with an IEP designation do not have to continue in the program until they are 22 years old. If the team thinks TAP is a good fit, the student has the opportunity to decline or accept.

“We look at the student’s post-secondary goals and determine if the program would be appropriate for them after they complete their required coursework at the high school,” she added.

The program is not set up based on credit hours. The students, along with their educational guardian, can choose to withdraw from the program at any time or stay until they age out.

There are many components of the program to help the individual learn independence. The Crimson Cup – A grab and go coffee shop is open to the public. The students, with supervision, operate the shop.

Another component is The Spirit Shop which sells Crimson spirit wear such as shirts and hats. Both are open to the public from 7:45 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. on school days when students are present. The shop is also open on special occasions.

Another part of TAP is the PAES Lab. PAES is a vocational lab that offers over 240 jobs that students can work on. These experiences help them develop a vocational profile that outlines their strengths and challenges.

Students also have lessons in daily life skills. Students help clean, shop, cook, do laundry and any other tasks that may arise. “There is not a typical day at TAP,” says Brammeier. “We take advantage of teachable moments and extra opportunities whenever possible.”

Finally, there’s The Crimson Closet, which provides clothing for district students in need. Upon teacher recommendation, gently used clothing is available to district students.

Those enrolled in TAP have community outings at least once a week, exposing them to real-life situations. They also explore jobs at various locations throughout Jacksonville.

All school districts must offer programming to 18- to 22-year olds. Programming differs by district. Not all have a program like TAP.

“We have been told that programs like ours are rare for districts our size,” Brammeier says. “We look at each student as an individual and utilize what would help them appropriately prepare for their future.” She says the program can bend and stretch to accommodate the skills and experiences that might need to be explored.

Brammeier and her husband Robert reside in Jacksonville with their 3 children. Brammeier is the recipient of the 2021 Bill Russell Award, an award given annually by District 117 to honor an outstanding educator.

The TAP program is located downtown at 30 N. Central Park Plaza, next to Lincoln Land Community College.

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