By: Jen Russon
Students and staff at Atlantis Academy, a private school serving children with special needs and varying disabilities, had a chance to show off its L.I.F.E program when a special guest dropped by to learn more about job placement and training classes offered there.
The program, which stands for living independently with fundamental experiences, helps 18-year-old students learn fundamental life skills, applicable to work and home. It first began at their Miami campus in 2014 and was adopted by Atlantis Academy in Coral Springs two years later.
Director, Donna Bussiere said her school reached out to Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine in late August, inviting him for his first look at Atlantis Academy and its day program.
“In addition to their academics, our students are focusing on three units this year: Hospitality, Computers and Home Economics. Each student has specific goals to meet and at the end of each unit will receive an in house certification,” said Bussiere.
She added Udine had visited the school, with an eye on inviting more stakeholders in Broward County to get involved in the mutually beneficial and gratifying work of employing students with special needs.
Employers affiliated with the Atlantis Academy program are Walmart – Heron Bay, Sunshine Kleen Coin Laundry, and the El Buen Gusto Restaurant in Coral Springs and Parkland.
Bussiere mentioned some of the students have also worked at Rising Tide Car Wash, with nearby locations in both Parkland and Margate.
Udine joked with students that every time he brings his car into Rising Tide, it rains afterward, which made the large assembled group laugh.
The students told the commissioner they were being trained in vocational, independent living, social and educational skills. Their J.E.T. or “job education training teachers” ran over a curriculum covering everything from shopping, cooking and lunch prep at their school, to greeting diners in hypothetical restaurant jobs.
The instructors said the program teaches students how to stock supplies and provide good customer service at big box retail stores, budget the biweekly paychecks students will earn, as well as put together a resume.
Students and faculty alike were proud of their arts and crafts table, laden with homemade art that will be sold, and proceeds used to help fund the program.
“The L.I.F.E program is impressive and it is truly gratifying to see how they are preparing their students for life after school. The facility was filled with innovative ideas and passion. It was truly great to observe first hand,” said Udine.
In addition to L.I.F.E, Udine toured the primary grades, where students were learning to write cursive, and also stopped by a Language Arts class to hear what the middle school-aged kids were reading.
Udine neatly wrote his name in cursive on an overhead projector and said he thought the school was a safe and nurturing environment for a wide range of students with disabilities.
“This school is immaculate. I think it’s wonderful how much the kids here clearly love to read. I’d like to see as many people reading in Broward as possible,” said Udine.
In the case of Atlantis Academy and its tight-knit student population, Udine’s sentiment adds some 156 students to the number of ardent readers out there. The school has been in operation since 1976 and admits students, Grades K-12.