Many high school students dream of what college will be like
after graduation. For students at PS 177, The Robin Sue Ward
School for Exceptional Students in Fresh Meadows, this is not a
realistic dream. Most of them will never get to live the
PS 177 looks like a typical public school from the outside, but
once you step through the doors it is a different story. This
school is a safe haven for 500 special needs students. The
students and staff are so warm and welcoming. As you walk
past the classrooms you see students with special needs doing the
unthinkable. They know how to use a Smartboard and participate in
school shows. The halls are lined with student work.
You can feel the love and care that the staff has for the
Dean Willis and JeanMarie Dimitratos, from the School of
Education have helped change the lives of six students from PS 177
along with students, Amanda Schmitt, Christina Talavera and Luis
Calvo. “Six amazing young men” as Amanda Schmitt says,
participated in a four-week summer program at St. John’s University
in Queens. During this program the students were taught
academics, life and social skills.
These students were given a small taste of what life is like for a
college student. Their days consisted of class time, work,
lunch, and art. During class students were taught everyday
skills that many college students need to know, for example
budgeting and balancing a checkbook. They were sent on a
campus scavenger hunt where they had to put their social skills to
the test by introducing themselves to strangers and asking for
their next clue. One campus staff member said, “I think this
is a great idea and experience. I think you should teach ALL
the students at St. John’s to say hi and how to be polite.”
Mrs. Posa, principal of PS 177, said “The students have grown
immeasurably in social skills as well as communicating to others in
a mature and responsible manner. The “inclusionary”
activities certainly benefited them and I think in just a few short
weeks they have grown more than we ever expected.”
At the end of the program none of the students wanted to
leave. A few actually considered St. John’s their home.
“I love it here. I never want to leave!” said one
Without the hard work of Dean Willis, JeanMarie Dimitratos,
Principal Posa and their staff this program would not have
happened. This has been such an eye opening experience for
every one involved, not just for the students but also the staff
members. These students are capable of more than you think.
If you give them a task and guide them they can accomplish it.
There need to be more people willing to give others a chance to
do something amazing and incredible.