Empower U is a program of the Kent Intermediate School District that provides employment and independent living skills necessary for young adults with complex needs or disabilities. That mission is a great fit for the work we do at Kuyper College, and it’s why Kuyper and the Kent ISD have forged a fruitful partnership that sees one of Empower U’s three locations on the Kuyper campus.
Amanda Cavazos, the teacher in charge of the Kuyper location, is thrilled by the arrangement.
“This partnership allows the two organizations to be in community together and learn from each other,” she said. “Kuyper has really been wonderful.” Empower U participants can practice and learn skills at job sites and in their communities. “At the Kuyper classroom, we work on the skills to get students from school to adulthood,” Cavazos said. Some of her students have jobs on the Kuyper campus, while others work in various locations throughout the community.
A typical week sees the Empower U students do life skills lessons in the morning and then spend about three hours on their job sites on Mondays through Thursdays. Fridays are fun days, including things like cooking lessons.
Working with Empower U puts Kuyper in the middle of a project designed to meet a very pressing need in the community. “Michigan is one of only two states that can educate special education students until the age of 26,” Cavazos said. But, she added, even in Michigan, navigating the world of special education can be difficult and confusing for students and their families. Empower U offers much-needed guidance on getting a job, living independently and more, Cavazos said.
And the Kuyper community is grateful to be part of the process.