NPHS ‘state-of-the-art’ transitional apartment work begins

NPHS ‘state-of-the-art’ transitional apartment work begins

Students in the transition program at North Providence High School will learn how to prepare and cook food, do laundry, make beds and write up resumes in brand new apartment-style space come next school year, Christopher Jones explains. (Breeze photo by Brittany Ballantyne)
Lowe’s donates $15,000; volunteers to build project

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Thanks to $15,000 donated from Lowe’s Home Improvement stores and the help of volunteers, students in the transition program at North Providence High School will start the school year in a new “state-of-the-art” transitional apartment space.

Christopher Jones, special education director, said six Lowe’s stores donated $2,500 each to help build a studio apartment in the building at 1828 Mineral Spring Ave., where students will learn how to prepare and cook food, do laundry, type up resumes, make a bed and become CNA certified if they choose.

By the start of the academic year, Jones said, students ages 18 to 21 in the program will be able to get to work in the space, which will have two sinks, microwaves and refrigerators, a washing machine and dryer, folding station, a row of laptops, a digital projector and bedroom spot.

“I know for sure it’s going to be second to none,” the Smithfield resident said of the apartment room, which will be about 40- by 40-square-feet in size. He explained students in the transition program this past school year stayed in the same area of the building after graduating from 12th grade.

Jones envisioned giving the students an experience where they moved up not just in academics, but also in the NPHS building after receiving their diplomas. What were two in-school suspension classrooms will be transformed into the apartment after space was reconfigured in the high school, Jones explained.

“When you’re down there for four years in a (special education) classroom, I think you should segue into another program,” Jones said, who hopes this move will give students something extra to strive for.

Jones told The Breeze he first got the idea for the transitional apartment after seeing North Smithfield High School’s full kitchen setup, where Lowe’s helped bring that area to life.

Once Jones spoke with the manager of Lowe’s in North Providence, word spread quickly about his efforts, and five other store locations joined the mission. Jones explained that Lowe’s store employees run a “Lowe’s Heroes” project, where they select a local group or organization to donate $2,500 to.

“It’s a total team effort,” Jones said, who plans to be at the site helping with construction, and pointed out that Supt. Melinda Smith, NPHS Principal Joseph Goho, Jim Fuoroli, superintendent of buildings and Donna Fishback, the lead teacher of the program have all been supportive and played an integral part in making sure the project would come together.

“Everybody’s just going to play a role to build this program for the kids,” Jones said, who graduated from NPHS himself in 1991.

When planning the construction of the apartment, Jones said, he, Fishback and the manager at Lowe’s in North Providence walked through the store at 1703 Mineral Spring Ave. to pick out steel appliances, cabinetry, flooring and countertop materials with a $15,000 budget.

The entire apartment space will be handicapped accessible, Jones said, which will allow students in wheelchairs to cook food and wash vegetables at their level and move around the space easily. Jones is also hoping to create a dining room area for the students.

After school hours, Smith said, these students will have the opportunity to become CNA certified to work in a hospital, and will use one corner of the apartment space to practice preparing trays for patients.

Jones said the apartment will help students become independent and ready to function on their own when they exit the program. “A lot of times it’s so much easier to do for, than to teach it,” he warned, but insisted teachers wouldn’t be doing all the work or cooking for students in the space.

He said the apartment space will be used anytime students aren’t out in the community getting hands-on work experience. Jones told The Breeze the high school worked out a partnership with the senior center in town, where NPHS the special education teacher will use a van from the center to travel to job sites with the students.

That’s really where students should be spending a majority of their time while in the transition program, Jones said. So far, Carl Anthony Tuxedo, Annex Plating, Seabra Foods in Cumberland and the senior center have provided NPHS students in the transition program job experiences.

“We need to make sure we’re tapping into everything that’s available, because the community has a lot to offer,” the special education director said. Between 40 and 50 volunteers from Lowe’s will be on site to build the apartment, Jones said, and he can’t wait to lend a helping hand in the construction and installations himself.

“I’m blown away,” Jones said, adding, “I won’t stop until it is the best that it can be.”

Comments

Good to see at NPHS.

grarnold you seem to have forgotten what your comment was on this very story only last month. "why isn't this for all the kids?"