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 Transition Teams Help Students Stay in School

Students in Juvenile Court and Community Schools (JCCS) rely on teachers for their day-to-day education. But what happens when those youths are poised to leave a community school or juvenile hall classroom?

That’s where the San Diego County Office of Education's student transition technicians come in. In the past year, JCCS has assembled a five-person team that serves students in both court and community schools. A critical piece of their work is to support students transitioning from court schools back into their home schools. The technicians work to ensure that there is not a lapse in student education, and that students continue with needed courses.

“Our student transition technicians provide invaluable support to our students as they navigate into, through, and beyond our schools,” JCCS Senior Director Sean Morrill said. “They collaborate with school districts, probation, parents, and community-based organizations to ensure the most appropriate placements for all our students.”

The student transition technicians serve as a technical resource to school districts and JCCS staff members, and maintain complex records for JCCS students. Perhaps most importantly, their job is also about making a connection with students.

Student transition technician Araceli Scholl knows the importance of connections, and can relate to her students. Scholl was in the JCCS system herself in a pregnant teen program when she was 16.

“I was on my way to being expelled in Vista because I stopped going to school,” she said. “I had a social worker who asked if I wanted to go to school, and I said, ‘Yes.’ So I was introduced to JCCS.”

She looked to her JCCS teachers as models.

“I’ve always been an observer, and I knew there was always more for me,” she said.

She joined SDCOE as a teacher’s aide in 1998. When the transition technician job came along last July, it was everything she wanted to do.

She now divides her time between juvenile hall and Camp Barrett.

She calls for honesty with her students when creating a transition plan.

“I tell them, ‘You need to do this for you. Show me your potential,’ ” she said.

On any given day at juvenile hall, she may be pulled into a classroom to answer a student’s question about a transcript or missing credits. A teacher recently invited Scholl to speak to a class of older high school girls, and she shared her story.

Scholl tells her students, “I’m going to be here. I’m going to bug you. You’re going to have to get rid of me.”

The need for additional transition services for JCCS students was called out in the initial development of SDCOE’s Local Control and Accountability Plan. In addition, legislation that took effect in 2015 strengthened education rights for youths who have been in the juvenile justice system. The new laws require education and probation agencies to implement a transition planning policy focused on students being released from juvenile court schools.

The student transition technicians also focus on post-secondary options through career discussions and research, guest speakers, college and certificate program field trips, and one-on-one planning.

“We’re pretty unique in what we’re doing, especially with our focus on career and technical education,” JCCS Student Support Supervisor Stephanie Austin said. “It is so rewarding for our staff to aid in this discovery process.”

While the student transition technician position requires some college experience, Austin said that the most outstanding quality required to work with students in JCCS “is a passion to connect students with the supports, information, and connections that will assist them in achieving their individual goals for college, career, and life.”

The transition technicians know their students’ strengths and areas of need in order to guide them in developing a personalized learning plan.

“Our JCCS students have talents, goals, and dreams to continue past any of the difficulties that have impacted their lives thus far,” Austin said. “We work to help them see beyond the now, and onto what can be. In one of my favorite student quotes, we assist students in ‘turning stumbling blocks into stepping stones!’”