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Armstrong-Indiana Transition Council salutes those who help disabled

| Thursday, May 2, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
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At ARIN Intermediate Unit 28 on May 1, the Armstrong-Indiana Transition Council recognized the following students, educators, businesses, and agencies with “Outstanding Achievement in Secondary Transition” awards for their contributions to post-secondary education, employment, and independent living for individuals with disabilities (left to right): Dawn Preshak, Armstrong School District transition coordinator; Madison Galonis, Indiana Area High School student; James Garland, Career TRACK youth employment coordinator; Janice Yeager, Penns Manor Area High School teacher; Daren Johnston, Penns Manor Area High School principal; Zachary Cramer, Penns Manor Area High School student; James Potocnak, Curtiss-Wright Corp.; and Dylon Brown, Penns Manor Area High School student. Missing from the photo is Kevan Landstrom, Kittanning High School teacher. Coordinated by ARIN Intermediate Unit 28, the Armstrong-Indiana Transition Council brings together parents and representatives from school districts and agencies in Armstrong and Indiana counties to coordinate information and services related to the transition of students with disabilities from school to work in the areas of post-secondary education, employment, and community living. For additional information regarding the Armstrong-Indiana Transition Council, contact Larry McCluskey, ARIN transition/work experience coordinator, 724-463-5300 ext. 1212; lmccluskey@iu28.org.

A ladder with just one rung won't take you very far, and Larry McCluskey believes the same principle applies to helping students with disabilities ascend to life beyond school.

“It takes more than one person,” said McCluskey, Transition/Work Experience Coordinator with ARIN Intermediate Unit 28. “We have to ask ourselves, ‘What are we doing to prepare (students with disabilities) for adult life, knowing that all of us who are in schools or agencies or even parents – to some degree – all are just one step in the process?'”

During an awards ceremony Wednesday afternoon at ARIN in Indiana, McCluskey and the Armstrong-Indiana Transition Council recognized students, educators, local businesses and community agencies who were nominated by community members for their accomplishments and contributions with secondary transition and making the move into the real world as seamless as possible for students with disabilities.

Dawn Preshak, transition coordinator with Armstrong School District, was one of nine people recognized. It's the second time she's won.

“It's an honor, but I'm just doing my job,” she said. “Helping even one student is such a widespread effort.”

Preshak said it's a federal requirement that every student in the state with special needs age 14 and older have an individual education program and a transition plan that deals with any post-secondary education, training, employment or independent living.

“In Armstrong School District, we have about 475 students who are of transition age,” she said. “The Transition Council provides needed support between Armstrong and Indiana counties to lend technical resources, advice and updates to agencies and employers.”

Two other honorees also came from Armstrong County: Kittanning High School teacher Kevan Landstrom (who was not in attendance) and James Potocnak from the South Buffalo location of Curtiss-Wright Corp.

Potocnak was spotlighted for his relationship with the Progressive Workshop of Armstrong County — a vocational training and rehabilitation facility for adults with disabilities.

He said he was asked several years ago if he would consider hiring someone through the workshop.

“At the time, I was looking for a part-time person and the initial person they supplied me with worked out very well,” said Potocnak. “Since then, we've hired maybe three or four people from the workshop and I can't be more impressed with them. Other businesses in Armstrong County should look into the program. They have a lot of good people who really want to work. It's a good resource to have.”

McCluskey said the Transition Council meets about every six weeks during the school year and anyone interested in any aspect of the program is welcome.

For more information, call ARIN at 724-463-5300 or visit iu28.org.

Tim Karan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303 or tkaran@tribweb.com.

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