Michael Vinci writes at The Philadelphia Public School Notebook:
Joselito "Josie" Torres is 19 years old, but until recently he had never made a purchase at a store by himself. He never rode the subway, nor had he bought a ticket to a museum on his own. But when Torres attended the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education VAST LIFE program for teenagers with disabilities, that all changed.
VAST LIFE (which stands for Vocational Academic Social Skills Training Life Skills Independence Functional Experiences), is a program that pairs Penn graduate students with high school students ages 14-21 who have moderate to significant developmental and intellectual disabilities. The purpose of the program is to help graduate education students receive the experience they need to meet Pennsylvania requirements for special education certification, while also helping teenagers with disabilities in the tri-state area become more independent.
Monica Page-Torres, Josie’s mother, said that the VAST LIFE program has helped her son in many ways.
“The program made him more independent. He was always very shy, but they taught him to communicate better by interacting with the other students. I’ve seen a change,” she said.