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NewsAug 26, 2021

Threshold Program pilots summer session for students with disabilities

From cooking courses to baseball games, participants get prepped for fall semester

Two people on a kayak on the Charles River with the city in the background
Above: Kyle Dalrymple and Lauren Wybieralla paddle on the Charles River during the Threshold Summer Program.

By Georgia Sparling

Our Threshold Program gives students with disabilities the skills they need to live full, independent lives. A three-week program piloted this month went one step further by helping to prevent learning loss while also giving participants a summer to remember.

“Due to the long summer break, students with a variety of learning styles tend to digress," says Susanne Carter, director of Residence Life and Student Services for Threshold. "A summer program helps them maintain those skills they learned during the academic year. It is also extremely beneficial to the new students to get acclimated to the campus and meet some fellow classmates and staff members before the school year starts.”

Threshold students at Fenway Stadium
The students enjoy a Red Sox game at Fenway Stadium. From left: Kyle Dalrymple, Eli VanArsdell, Lauren Wybieralla, Ellie Slager, Molly Cioffi and Aidan Mincy

Six students, ages 19-24, joined the inaugural program, which offered the opportunity to practice independent living skills and to earn a ServSafe certificate in food handling, a credential required for employment in many restaurants. Weekdays and weekends were full of activities that included workshops on campus and time for students to put their new skills into practice across the city.

“I don’t want to go home. I had so much fun,” says Ellie Slager, who will enter our Bridge Year program this fall.

Partnerships with Boston-area organizations provided expertise and a rich tableau of learning opportunities. Impact Boston trained participants in navigating safe and healthy relationships. A teacher from the Learning Prep School taught students to make pizza and spaghetti and meatballs, and through their Transition to Work program, the Jewish Vocational Service taught students safe food preparation for home and work.

Three people riding the T with masks
Students learned to navigate public transportation and toured the MBTA Emergency Training Center.

The MBTA Emergency Training Center gave the group a behind-the-scenes look at the transit system while regular fitness sessions, ranging from foot tours of the city to kayaking on the Charles River, helped the six navigate their summer surroundings.

Evenings and weekends were filled with ice cream socials, movie nights, a T ride to a Red Sox game, and Disney-themed dance parties.

Threshold students at Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
The students tour the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

“The summer program helped me feel less nervous about coming here in the fall. I now know where everything is and I can get organized,” says Lauren Wybieralla, who will begin her first year at Lesley this fall.

The other five people in the program are already Threshold students, but in the future, the staff would like to welcome prospective students while also expanding the summer session to six weeks.