Transition 99 brings further education opportunities to students with special needs


Annie Flynn, In-Depth Editor

Many people in the area think of Distirct 99 as having only two campuses. They are often unaware of the district’s third campus, Transition 99 (T99). Since 1998, Transition 99 has been able to offer students with special needs additional courses focused on everyday-life and job skills for their future. The work done at T99 is often unseen and underappreciated by members in the community; although it is some of the most important and remarkable.

A consistent purpose :

T99 was not always an option for students with special needs. In the late 1990’s, District 99 began this program to give the opportunity to students who needed it.

“In 1998, District 99 started the program. The district understood the importance of having young adults with special needs being taught outside of the typical high school schedule. Originally, T99 was housed at Downers Grove South. In 2014, the district opened our current building ,” Transition 99 coordinator Carolina Schoenbeck said.

The location and staff have changed throughout the years, but the purpose hasn’t. T99 aims to give students an individual purpose and meaningful experiences in the building.

“It truly is individualized as we focus on what students need to learn to become independent, productive citizens after they graduate. Due to the continuous growth of the program, T99 will be undergoing our third renovation this spring. Our program continues to grow as T99 has a reputation for being a stellar program,” Shoenbeck said.

Being apart of the T99 community:

After completing four years at DGN or DGS, students who choose T99 as their next academic path then come from ages 18-22. To become apart of T99 is a decision made by an IEP team. They consider factors such as a student’s need for help in finding a job, academic ability, their level of independence, etc.

“Students who receive special services in District 99 have an option to continue their education at T99, a place that will help them not only continue their education but to also help them continue the development of social skills and job skills,” Principal Dr. Courtney Dement said. “Students have a structured day. They work with many adults who teach, who job coach, and who assist with various life skills that students will need once they graduate.  The staff helps the students learn when and how to advocate for themselves, and helps to foster the independence they’ll need moving forward.”

Being apart of T99 is an opportunity that helps students grow in so many different aspects in your life. Carly is currently in her last year at T99 preparing for her future and looking back at everything she has learned during her time at T99. 

“During my days here, we would start with working on morning routine, then go to classes. Some days we got to shop or go to the gym before lunch. After lunch we have electives,” Carly said. “After graduating T99, I am going to live at home and become a SEASPAR eagle. I am also wanting to get a job.”

Active in the Building:

A staff members day at T99 never seems to be the same. They adjust to the needs of the students and are prepared to teach anything from core subjects, to daily house chores, as well as always being aware of students’ social/emotional needs.

“Being a teacher at T99 means that I get to work with students on daily life skills. A typical day at T99 doesn’t exist as everyday can look a little different. We are a community-based program, which means that we try to learn all we can outside of the building in the community. In the building, we also work on cooking, housekeeping, vocational skills, and daily living skills,” Jeri Smolek, a teacher at T99 said. “Prior to T99 I worked in the high schools with an academic focus.  Coming to transition there is never a dull moment and I enjoy seeing how meaningful the skills we are working on are in our young adult’s life.”

To be able to adjust your work day to the needs of others takes a staff who have a specific set of skills and passion for what they do. T99 is made up of a team who love and care for their students, work, and T99’s purpose.

“I chose this career to give our young adults an equal chance to succeed outside of the classroom. I love to work with my team to help our students figure out what tools they need to succeed in the community, and to help them identify the many skills/talents they have,” Case Manager at T99 Danny Balderas said. “We all have the same end goal to help our young adults become as independent as they can be before leaving T99 and being part of their community.”

Opportunities in the Community:

Along with learning in the building, many students have the opportunity to do work outside of the building to help them adjust to work life after graduation. Job Coach Paul Engman works on the T99 staff by training students at different job locations.

“The job program prepares students to be independent after graduation by teaching students job-specific and general skills they’ll use at work and in life,” Engman said. “As a job coach, I support T99 students by coaching them to learn specific tasks at training jobs so that they can do tasks by themselves. An example of this would be me working with students in learning how to scan inventory at a grocery store. Job coaches also teach skills that students will use at future jobs and in other parts of their lives, like communication skills.”

Through job work, students can benefit from working at buildings around the community. Students gain a sense of what they want to do and where they fit into the work field in their community. Job coach Latasha Baylark helps guide where students work based on their interests and goals.

“We try to find a workplace that best fits our students’ needs and goals. We take the time to try to get to know what their dream job is and place them in a field that can help them to get closer to that dream,” Baylark said. “The vocational team meets with students to do a verbal and written interest inventory at the beginning of the year. We take the information we receive and brainstorm which job site would best suit their individual needs or what skills can be added to their resume.”


Along with academic work, T99 tries to offers ways students can get involved in out of school extracurriculars. Whether it be basketball, track, or T99 microbusinesses, these activities give students opportunities to connect with peers outside of classroom settings. Senior at DGN Madeline Topic worked with students at T99 as she coached them in basketball.

D99 hoops is a special needs basketball program with players from DGN, DGS, and T99. I am an adaptive P.E. leader at DGN so I got to work with lots of the students prior to coaching them on the team. I love working with special needs students which is why I wanted to be a student coach,” Topic said. “Inclusion in something is the biggest benefit. Lots of these students don’t have many extracurricular activities, so D99 hoops gives them an opportunity to be a part of a team.”

T99 provides district 99 an outlet to get students with special needs more help, and involvement within our community. It has grown as a program over the years and will continue to as it is such a necessity to the community.