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Working together to empower future leaders

Working together to empower future leaders

“Good morning, everyone! How can we help you today?”

A student smiling and holding a package of PlayDough.

Every Wednesday during the spring, adult transitional students in Northwest ISD’s RISE program (Reaching Independence through Supported Education) eagerly wait for directions to accomplish the day’s task at hand. A highlight of their week, students serve diligently in the Northwest ISD Education Foundation’s (NEF) Resource Store, practicing life skills they will build upon throughout their lives. 

A group of volunteers and NEF staff members sitting on the floor.

“I like to put the sticker labels that say NEF on the items in the store,” said student-volunteer Garrison Hooks. “My favorite thing to do is organize the items in the store and put the orders for the teachers in the bins. It helps the teachers get what they need for their classroom.”

The RISE program (Reaching Independence through Supported Education) is a school-based transition service offered by Northwest ISD. The program serves as an instructional arrangement for adult students — ages 18 through 21 — who have completed the academic graduation requirements and are working within the continuum of transition services to complete implementation of their individual interests, strengths, and choices.

A staff member and student giving a high-five.

With significant program growth and success, RISE recently joined forces with the NISD Education Foundation. Forming a collaboration benefiting both parties, students load a school bus and travel across the district on a weekly basis to help where needed in foundation’s newly formed resource store and library. The store — created to provide immediate support to district teachers and students through free resources and educational materials — allows teachers to “shop” for school and classroom supplies, including snack packs, clothing items and booksAll items are provided for free to district educators.

A student smiling at the camera.

“Working at NEF has been a wonderful experience for our students,” said Barbara Hall, a RISE program job coach. “Our students have had a chance to practice valuable skills such as sorting, labeling, and counting sets. They have learned how to fulfill specific orders for teachers from an order form, which is such a great skill set to have!”

Through these adaptable experiences, students develop lessened anxiety, improved social skills, more self-awareness and executive functioning skills. To obtain an occupation following schooling, teaching exceptional customer service skills is a high priority for the RISE staff. Eager students are led by professional faculty members who walk their students through variety of store and library operations that are functional to the program. 

“One of the best parts of this collaboration is that our students have learned and practiced proper workplace conversations and etiquette,” Hall said. “The staff at NEF has been so helpful and encouraging of our students. Each week we look forward to not only working at NEF but also seeing the NEF staff.”

A staff member and student giving a high-five.

 The obvious familial and caring atmosphere within the RISE and NEF program collaboration further prepares Northwest ISD students to thrive within their very own communities.

“The addition of the NEF Resource Store and Library has provided opportunities we never thought possible,” said Jennifer Burton, the executive director of the Northwest ISD Education Foundation. “We knew we would be supporting educators in the classroom in a new unique, fun way, but we had no clue it would provide us with additional support as well!  When the RISE students arrive to work with us each week, they have a smile on their face and are ready to take on any task. They do a great job of helping us getting the store ready for shoppers and filling online orders. They encourage us to be our best every day and we are so thankful for their partnership.”

Due to overwhelming support and the need for expansion, the NEF Resource Store and Library will reopen ahead of the 2023-2024 school year, providing ample volunteering opportunities and additional resources, materials and supplies for Northwest ISD educators.