Quinnipiac-Cheshire Transition Collaborative partnership prepares students to succeed

Students measure ingredients on a table.

Recipe for success

Incoming Quinnipiac-Cheshire Transition Collaborative students Peter Klein and Julitza Lopez bake a cake on the York Hill Campus. Transition students spent a week living independently in Quinnipiac residence halls working with occupational therapy students on skills to help them navigate the university experience.

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he Quinnipiac-Cheshire Transition Collaborative, a partnership between the university and Cheshire Public Schools, provides young adults on the autism spectrum the opportunities, experiences and choices to develop skills necessary to meet life’s challenges. The program enables them to be self-determined and self-advocates in their quest for a quality, happy and productive life.

Preparing to start its eighth year, the interprofessional program brings students, faculty and alumni from the schools of business, health sciences, medicine and nursing together with educators from Cheshire Public Schools. Together, they help high school students with autism spectrum disorder develop the social, academic and professional skills needed to excel, while building and maintaining lasting relationships.

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“The success of the program is in huge part because of the belief and support from the Quinnipiac leadership team and administration,” said Kim Hartmann, professor of occupational therapy, who serves as lead faculty coordinator. “At the heart of our mission as a university, we strive to build community and be inclusive to every person. Every person with whatever level of ability can contribute to society and their community.”

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Brenden Leventhal, using a walker, and Amber Emmino walk down a hall in the student center.

One step at a time

Occupational therapy student Amber Emmino, MS '18, with incoming Cheshire-Transition Collaborative student Brenden Leventhal as they work through a scavenger hunt on the Mount Carmel Campus. Transition students spent a week living independently in Quinnipiac residence halls working with OT students on skills to help them navigate the university experience.

Transition students complete one of three curriculums depending on their particular needs and goals.

“Bridge to Life” focuses on independent living, career exploration and internships, while “College Life” covers college-level academics, managing a class schedule and balancing study and recreational time. “Dorm Life” enables students to live independently in the residence halls on the York Hill Campus, where they must manage laundry, dining, transportation and other necessities. 

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“Few states even have transition programs or aid like this,” Hartmann said. “What makes ours so unique is how students and faculty not only develop the curriculums, but actively participate with the transitioning students.”

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Occupational therapy student Gabby Frankel ’19 was involved in both the College Life and Bridge to Life programs. She led students on multiple practical exercises last year, including a simulated trip to New Haven, where they learned how to navigate public transportation, as well as dine out and evenly split the bill. 

“I share in the feeling of success when students reach a big milestone,” Frankel said.

The program provided a practical application for what Frankel had been learning in class — particularly how to work with people with disabilities and impairments.

“This experience really opened my eyes to the growth and opportunity in the occupational therapy field,” Frankel said.

Part-time occupational therapy professor Karen Majeski is a prime example of these opportunities. An occupational therapist employed by Cheshire Public Schools, Majeski has been involved with the Quinnipiac Cheshire-Transition Collaborative since its inception, and has assisted numerous students with their transition into both college and employment.

The details of that process are what Majeski finds most rewarding.

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“It’s in the little things, like helping them break down a problem or navigate various barriers,” she said.