The Tehachapi Unified School District's Transition to Adult Living and Lifestyle Program (TALL) is truly thankful for the community's help with their development in young contributing citizens to Tehachapi.

The TALL program gives students, ages 18 through 22 years old and with various disabilities, the opportunity to learn vocational, daily living, recreation/leisure and social skills. The program, part of Tehachapi High School, is actually located down the street at the Tehachapi Independent Learning Center. This gives the students the opportunity to be closer to community-based instruction outings, along with allowing students to be around other adults sharing a campus with Cerro Cosso Community College, and adult education. This is an abstract idea versus a typical classroom.

The community is our classroom. Students go shopping and practice basic cooking skills all while budgeting the money they can spend at the store. Instead of going to PE class, students attend T-Fitness, learning how to have a healthy lifestyle. We try to do it all. The moment students arrive, our staff is busy running around town. Time flies keeping up with the schedule for everyone’s individual needs!

All 15 students enrolled in the TALL program get work experience in the community and are supported with job coaches and the Workabililty1 Grant. Students use various job exploration tools and assessments to find out what kind of job they would like to learn about. Then, the job coaches go and see if a vendor is willing to support the program by providing employment opportunities for our students.

The TALL program is appreciative of all the local vendors who allow them to be out learning real life skills. Currently the TALL program has students working at: Treasure Trove, The Dressing Room, Love’s, Carlos Donuts, Kmart, Tehachapi Valley Recreation & Park District, Jacobson Middle School and Tehachapi High School.

Each student earns a paycheck and learns about the basic finances of becoming an adult. The Workability1 grant also serves other high school students by providing job experience. Some of those vendors are: Wally’s Tailor Shop, The Hitching Post, Tractor Supply, Tehachapi Unified Day Care, Rite-Aid, etc. Aside from work experience, some of my students volunteer at the Tehachapi Senior Center. This has helped foster students to learn about giving back to the community.

It is critical that the TALL students learn how to keep an active lifestyle. Students walk every morning out in the community practicing street safety and leisure skills. The TALL program has also had a wonderful partnership with our local T-Fitness gym. Students go twice a week with para-educators and trained adaptive physical educators to learn how to use gym equipment. Students help the T-Fitness staff with basic maintenance needs and then break a sweat using the various equipment. T-Fitness has even gone out of their way to instruct an aerobic workout class once a week that has students dancing with smiles on their faces, making working out fun!

Part of the program is to teach students independent living skills. Next on the TALL program’s list is learning to ride a bike. Many of these students will not be able to drive a car, but can most definitely learn to ride a bike. Giving students the independence to ride around town to get to work or social outings is huge. The TALL program is so thankful for Marvin from Cycle N’ Go and an anonymous donor who helped donate two bicycles to the program. Activities cost lots of money and these bikes go a long way in helping students reach their goals. Now, we just need to get some knee/elbow pads and helmets and we are set to go!

TALL has also had the opportunity to get tours around town at Old Towne Pizza, The Heritage Museum and The Train Depot Museum. Visiting different locations has helped spark interest in learning for these young adults. The community outings along with teaching students to self-advocate for their wants and needs has given them an opportunity to speak about and direct their own future.

The vision of this program started a year ago with my mentor Mr. Glen Orr. I’ve learned from the best and am now trying to keep his vision going and help grow this program into something extraordinary. I truly believe that the community has had such a positive impact on these students’ lives and is contributing to a great future. I am truly thankful for my staff that works hard every day and the community for giving our program a chance!

Brittany McCalman is a TALL Program instructor and WorkAbility director for the Tehachapi Unified School District.