Program Overview

OLS at Bellevue College is an associate degree program for adults with cognitive disabilities.  This program is 4 years in length with specialized scaffolded instruction to learn and prepares students to become self-determined, contributing citizens and successful employees. 21st Century Skills are infused into the curriculum focusing on critical thinking, Social Thinking® and self-determination. During the 4 years students develop a career pathway, expand interpersonal skills, take part in service learning, and participate in internship experiences.

An Instructor's Point Of View

I was sitting on the edge of my seat as was everyone in the audience.  We could not wait to hear the next sentence.  The students in Field Experience 1, taught by Nathan Schloetel and Aimee Sharp, were sharing their internship experiences.  I sat there thinking, who were these professionals standing in front of me?

I remember when these same students were in my second year Citizenship class.  Three years ago, these students were timid, sometimes unable to complete homework and struggled with social relationships.  I remember assigning a group project.  The students lacked confidence, unsure of how to communicate much less accomplish an academic project.  The students struggled through the group dynamics and communication to deliver impressive presentations.

What I was now experiencing in Field Experience 1 was a group of individuals who were confident, insightful and eloquent.  As they reported their internship experience, every student stood with poise and professionalism.  They were dead serious about their work experience.  They took pride in what they were accomplishing.  Fellow students asked critical thinking questions that caused classmates to step forward with possible ideas and solutions.  Now that is collaboration. Wow!

I would like to highlight a student in that class named Christina.  She has given her permission for me to share some information about her.  I met Christina as she was beginning her second year at OLS.  Christina was attentive and did her homework, but struggled in social relationships with other students.  I could say that she expected the world and others to revolve around her, and she expected classmates to see things as she saw them.  Christina struggled with flexibility, professionalism, physical presence and collaboration, to name a few.  She viewed daily challenges as events that someone should be blamed for.  Christina’s thinking was negative when it came to herself and others.

Three years later, Christina is a maturing young woman.  She accepts responsibility, she is forgiving, and approaches issues with compassion.  Christina is very aware of her tendency to think about things negatively.  She is also aware enough that she stops those thoughts (most of the time) and stays on a positive, productive track.  Best of all, Christina has a professional career focus.  Her internship is at Lake Washington School District.  Christina assists high school students as their Job Coach.  She helps them write resumes and cover letters, and she teaches her students how to be appropriate in the greater community.  As I watched Christina talk about her profession, I was awe struck.  I could see that Christina has acquired the skills and growth necessary to help her students.  Christina takes personal and professional responsibility for her students.  I asked myself, how could anyone make this much progress in the last three years?

Students in this program make this kind of progress because of everything that happens in this program and because of every person who works it in.  As staff, we build on one another’s strengths and make contributions to students’ growth.  This progress also happens because of the purposeful design of the courses and wrap-around services that are artfully orchestrated by OLS leadership.  By the time students get to their internship experience they, too, will have made amazing progress.

The truth is that I could write a story about each of the students in Field Experience 1.  Time and e-space make that impossible.  Any student, yes YOU, can be a fabulous story, too.

I left Nathan’s class feeling inspired, gratified and wowed!  I left feeling gratitude for all of our gifted staff members, our students and their supportive families.  I wish all of you could have been a ‘fly on the wall’. 

Donna Hudson

Coordinator of Instruction/Instructor                                                              OLS at Bellevue College, February 2014

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