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KC hosts Opportunity House commencement

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST

Kishwaukee College and Opportunity House Inc. hosted the second annual commencement ceremony on Nov. 4 for clients who completed the Learning for Life I Program.

Receiving diplomas from Tom Choice, president of Kishwaukee College, were the following Opportunity House clients: Daniel Barnes, Spring Bellows, Sarah Bullmer, Mark Clausen, Janet Freeman, Hillard Shadow Gentry, John Grover, Valerie Heather, Sara Killey and Helen Stryker.

The 10 graduates completed 32 hours of instruction in addition to class work offered by Opportunity House itself to qualify as having completed the Learning for Life I Program. On average, the clients took 2 to 3 years to complete the requirements. Clients who received their diplomas live with their family, in an agency group home, or in their own apartments and receive occasional support services from Opportunity House staff.

The commencement ceremony – for which the clients wore traditional gowns and mortarboards – began with the singing of the National Anthem by Brian Perkins; welcome remarks delivered by Choice, congratulatory remarks from Robert Shipman, executive director of Opportunity House Inc. and commencement address by Carla Raynor, Learning for Life instructor.

The evening held several highlights, including an emotional speech given by graduate Daniel Barnes in honor of his mother and the Learning for Life I Class of 2013 surprising Raynor with a large bouquet of fresh flowers.

Opportunity House Inc., located in Sycamore and serving DeKalb County, assists people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to work, live in homes of their choice, and enjoy community life. The Learning for Life program is a unique partnership between Opportunity House and Kish College. It began in 2009 with a first class taught by Carla Raynor, who also is the coordinator of the Family Literacy Program at KC. Raynor integrated readings, activities, field trips and homework and then developed other units based on the interests of the participating clients. Since then, Learning for Life programs have covered a wide range of subjects, including history, transportation, geography, science and more.

One of the clients’ favorite units is Visual Thinking Strategies class. VTS is based in cognitive psychology research and revolves around an examination and exploration of famous artwork by students in a group setting that encourages communication about the work and interpretation of the image. This fall, clients viewed artwork from the well-known masters and then created their own works. Their artwork was then exhibited in the third annual Opportunity House Art Show during which the clients explained their works to visitors.

The partnership between Kishwaukee College and Opportunity House is one of the important key features of the Learning for Life Program, which extends through multiple levels and works within the students’ own interests and schedules. Through the program, the clients experience intellectually challenging materials that motivate and engage their interest and curiosity as it improves communication, academic and social skills. The 2012 graduates have continued on in Learning for Life II and a Learning for Life III program is in the planning stages.

The Class of 2013 received the diplomas, commemorative tassels and are all looking forward to continuing their education in Learning for Life II in the spring.

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