Shouts, giggles and laughs coming out from a classroom, students rushing in and out, asking questions of the instructors, they’re getting ready: “map -check, water bottle -check, and money -check!” Today, Providence Place’s Center for Higher Independence (CHI) students have the chance to go on bus training with two Life Skills Instructors Angela Wilhem and Emily Phillips.
Ben is part of the group. He came from Iowa Park, Texas to Providence Place last March because he wanted to gain more independence and skills. His long term goal is to get a job and to keep it. Today is his first time on the bus and it’s an important step for him.
“Even though riding the bus on my own is a scary thought, I can’t wait to do it because afterwards, I can get a job and become truly independent,” said Ben.
And it is a big deal. Bus training requires trust from the Case Manager and Life Skills Instructor, and confidence from the student. It’s two days in the classroom, reviewing instructions, learning terminology and routes. It’s also four days out of school: one trip to downtown; one to the airport and North Star Mall; one to Ingram Mall; and finally one to Goodwill and Walmart.
While in training, life skills instructors show the students how to identify the correct bus line, how to behave in the bus, what to say to the bus driver, key landmarks to note, how to pull the bell cord or push the plastic strip to request a stop, and how to transfer. Students learn many different skills during the day that are not related to the bus. For example, they learn how to manage their time.
“I’m looking forward to this trip because we’ll be left one hour alone in the mall. I can shop on my own, compare prices, and do whatever I want,” said Ben.
CHI students also learn about price comparison and budgeting. They compare prices at Goodwill, Walmart and three different malls and have a $12 budget to spend on food, snacks, and bus fares. During their trip to Walmart, they learn which over-the-counter medications to use depending on their needs. At Ingram mall, they learn how to dress for an interview.
“You know before, I was a couch potato. I didn’t want to do anything because it was so hard for me to do stuff,” said Ben. “We don’t have buses in my small town, and I couldn’t go anywhere and do anything. Here at Providence Place I was reminded that I can live a full life.”
More than being able to ride the bus, bus training is a confidence builder for students and it’s the start of becoming truly independent.
“When they go to bus training, they overcome their doubt,” said Angela, life skills instructor at Providence Place. “They see that they can achieve anything they want.”