2018 Transtition Student Summer Camp


Transition Program Students Trip

June 4 through June 8, 2018

Chattanooga, Tennessee


It was my pleasure and privilege to participate in this year's trip to Chattanooga,

Tennessee, with the Transition Program Students.


On the morning of Monday, June 47th, eight students, John O'Dillon, Katrina Wendel,

And I departed the IB center in two vehicles. Katrina and four students in the IB mini Van, John O'Dillon, four students, and myself in the rented 15-passenger van.


Our first stop was at an interstate rest area south of Montgomery where students made their own sandwiches and consumed a variety of salads, chips, cookies and beverages, and, of course, took care of bathroom needs. After an hour, we were back on I-65 headed north to Birmingham, then I-59 to Trenton, Alabama, where John had procured a beautiful house in the mountains for lodging during our stay.


Getting to the lodging was an experience within itself!  I had obtained directions via my own devises and followed them to the letter (exit at Rising Fawn, turn left, etc.) From the interstate we progressed to a two-lane paved road to a two-lane dirt road to a one-lane dirt road, both dirt roads providing rather challenging riding and driving characteristics. We rode and drove and looked high and low for the address only to learn we were not following directions provided by the homeowner-we were supposed to have exited I-59 at Trenton, not Rising Fawn. The owner was very quick, but not so gent, in identifying our error so we course corrected, which meant turning the 15-passenger and mini vans around in very restricted spaces, and re-traversing the terrain over which we had traveled back to the interstate. Getting off at the proper exit, we once again found ourselves on a paved two-lane road, another dirt two-lane road, and then another dirt one-lane road equally as challenging but longer than the previous route only to wind up at exactly the same spot! The only difference between the first and second route was that we then knew to look for two big metal gates with metal outlines of a deer head on each gate.


The gate code provided entry to the property and once inside the gates, it was another half mile up to the big, beautiful house! The house was incredible and provided great experiences and opportunities because the students had to negotiate multi-levels, irregular steps both inside and outside, and uneven terrain. There were plenty of rooms and sleeping areas and areas large enough to facilitate life skills classes.


Once the vans were unloaded and sleeping areas identified, we headed back into Trenton in search of food as everyone, students and adults alike, were growing hungrier and more irritable by the minute. After numerous stops at fast food places that were either closed or closing, John and I raided Ingles Supermarket.  After purchasing pizzas and breakfast foods, everyone headed by to the house for eating and bedtime.


Tuesday morning we headed into Chattanooga to visit the Chickamauga Battlefield. At the visitor's center, the students watched/listened to a 17 minute movie about Civil War, spoke with Park Ranger Odom about his work history and becoming a parker ranger. By chance, Dr. Frank Varney, a history professor and author, was at the center autographing his latest book, General Grant and the Rewriting of History. Dr. Varney was also willing to speak with the students and share some pearls of wisdom about his career. After visiting the battlefield, a delicious lunch at the Park Place Restaurant was enjoyed by all before returning to the lodging for some free time before dinner, life skills lessons and bedtime.


Wednesday morning was a visit to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) where the students were introduced to the director of the Multiple Disability Resource Center and then Brian Klutzner, UTC's IT director. After a short session with Brian, a meeting was scheduled for the next afternoon.


From UTC, we traveled to the Tennessee Valley Railroad Depot to board and enjoy the Missionary Ridge train that took us through a long tunnel that was hand dug over a hundred years ago before returning to the depot. We returned to the house for free time before dinner and enjoyed a guest speaker, Bob Humble, who talked to the students about their future plans and his own career history. Using his cell phone, he called his sister, Sharon Bragg, who is blind and owns her own businesses. He introduced her and she talked with the students and told her own story and answered questions.


Thursday was a return visit to UTC to meet with Brian who conducted an extensive tour of the UTC administration building before taking the students to the campus brail map. Brian explained the history of developing and acquiring the map and its usefulness to UTC blind and visually impaired students. After Brian had a one-on-one discussion with each student, we traveled to Audubon Acres, a wildlife preserve on the South Chickamauga Creek.


Audubon Acres is part of the Trail of Tears. After a brief introduction of the Trail of Tears and its significance, the students were allowed to review the artifacts on display in the Audubon Acres office. Afterwards, for those who wished to be adventuresome and after a change into swimsuits, we hiked down to the South Chickamauga Creek for a cool and refreshing "dip".  For most of the students, it was their first experience of wading and swimming in a creek or river. After some gentle coaxing and reassurances, most allowed their fears and trepidations to yield to fun and enjoyment.


After returning to the lodging, students collected their personal belongings and prepared to head home Friday morning.


Friday morning, fully loaded, we left the lodging around 9:00 a.m., heading home. After a stop in Clanton, Alabama, for lunch and other necessities, we eventually arrived back at the IB Center around 4:30 to the welcoming and open arms of family and friends.


What did I learn from this experience?  That:


The Transition Program is of fantastic benefit to the students who learn by doing, socializing with peers, professionals, and staff, and receiving instructions on everyday issues and events most people take for granted. 


Unfortunately, many students have been so sheltered and protected by their family that the real world is strange but intriguing place full of opportunities and adventures. John and Katrina do a wonderful job of explaining, counseling, encouraging, and teaching the students!

John and Katrina work very hard and expend a LOT of time, energy, patience, and caring to make the program successful.

No matter how much planning, organizing, and preparing is done, a Plan "B", "C", etc. must be formulated to meet the unpredictable, unavoidable changes that occur.

When dealing with Blind and Visually Impaired individuals. The word "hurry" does not exist.

Blind and Visually Impaired individuals must be supervised and monitored every second to allow them maximum independence without permitting them to be injured or harmed.

That five full days with eight students will absolutely wear you out!!


       Ardye Graham                                                                                                                        July, 2018

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