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Lesson in self-sufficiency: Nazareth Area High School opens ‘simulated’ apartment to teach life skills to students

  • The simulated apartment at Nazareth Area High School during the...

    The simulated apartment at Nazareth Area High School during the facility’s grand opening. The mock apartment is intended as an aid to help teach disabled students life skills. (David Garrett/Special to 첥Ƶ)

  • Students are seen here Friday, Feb. 9, 2024, in the...

    Students are seen here Friday, Feb. 9, 2024, in the living room area of the simulated apartment at Nazareth Area High School during the facility’s grand opening. The mock apartment is intended as an aid to help teach disabled students life skills. (David Garrett/Special to 첥Ƶ)

  • Avi Vicente, a Nazareth Area School District student, is seen...

    Avi Vicente, a Nazareth Area School District student, is seen here Friday, Feb. 9, 2024, in the dining area of the simulated apartment at Nazareth Area High School during the facility’s grand opening. The mock apartment is intended as an aid to help teach disabled students life skills. (David Garrett/Special to 첥Ƶ)

  • The Living room area, of the simulated apartment at Nazareth...

    The Living room area, of the simulated apartment at Nazareth Area High School is seen here Friday, Feb. 9, 2024, during the facility’s grand opening. The mock apartment is intended as an aid to help teach disabled students life skills. (David Garrett/Special to 첥Ƶ)

  • The bedroom area, of the simulated apartment at Nazareth Area...

    The bedroom area, of the simulated apartment at Nazareth Area High School is seen here Friday, Feb. 9, 2024, during the facility’s grand opening. The mock apartment is intended as an aid to help teach disabled students life skills. (David Garrett/Special to 첥Ƶ)

  • The laundry area, of the simulated apartment at Nazareth Area...

    The laundry area, of the simulated apartment at Nazareth Area High School is seen here Friday, Feb. 9, 2024, during the facility’s grand opening. The mock apartment is intended as an aid to help teach disabled students life skills. (David Garrett/Special to 첥Ƶ)

  • The bedroom area, of the simulated apartment at Nazareth Area...

    The bedroom area, of the simulated apartment at Nazareth Area High School is seen here Friday, Feb. 9, 2024, during the facility’s grand opening. The mock apartment is intended as an aid to help teach disabled students life skills. (David Garrett/Special to 첥Ƶ)

  • The simulated apartment at Nazareth Area High School during the...

    The simulated apartment at Nazareth Area High School during the facility’s grand opening. The mock apartment is intended as an aid to help teach disabled students life skills. (David Garrett/Special to 첥Ƶ)

  • Stacy Schumacher, a Nazareth Area School District special education teacher,...

    Stacy Schumacher, a Nazareth Area School District special education teacher, cuts the ribbon during the opening ceremony for the simulated apartment at Nazareth Area High School. The mock apartment is intended as an aid to help teach disabled students life skills. (David Garrett/Special to 첥Ƶ)

  • Richard Kaskey, superintendent of the Nazareth Area School District, welcomes...

    Richard Kaskey, superintendent of the Nazareth Area School District, welcomes attendees to the Friday, Feb. 9, 2024 ribbon-cutting ceremony for the simulated apartment at Nazareth Area High School. The mock apartment is intended as an aid to help teach disabled students life skills. (David Garrett/Special to 첥Ƶ)

  • A.J. Kise, the Nazareth Area School District director of education,...

    A.J. Kise, the Nazareth Area School District director of education, speaks Friday, Feb. 9, 2024, during the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the simulated apartment at Nazareth Area High School. The mock apartment is intended as an aid to help teach disabled students life skills. (David Garrett/Special to 첥Ƶ)

  • Richard Kaskey, superintendent of the Nazareth Area School District, welcomes...

    Richard Kaskey, superintendent of the Nazareth Area School District, welcomes attendees to the Friday, Feb. 9, 2024 ribbon-cutting ceremony for the simulated apartment at Nazareth Area High School. The mock apartment is intended as an aid to help teach disabled students life skills. (David Garrett/Special to 첥Ƶ)

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Apartment life can be a grand vehicle for one’s independence, but it can also be a spine-chilling and grueling experience,  especially with the cost of rent these days.

So why not prepare students with a head start, for practice? That’s the idea behind a new program at Nazareth Area High School.

The Simulated Apartments program seeks to provide disabled students with the life skills needed for independent living. Students participate in activities to learn about planning and preparing meals, doing laundry and ironing clothes, balancing their budget, managing their schedules, navigating social experiences and more.

The high school room used for the simulation plays the part convincingly, complete with features such as couches, a kitchen and dining area, a bed, a television, decorations, a pantry and laundry appliances. On Friday, one student made themselves pretty comfortable on the couch and enjoyed a weather update on TV.

“I really like it,” said another student, 11th grader Averi Stitzer, adding she was excited to try cooking in the apartment.

On Friday, the Nazareth Area School District held a grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the program at the high school, hosting dozens of attendees including Superintendent Richard Kaskey, Director of Special Education AJ Kise, students, and state representatives such as Ann Flood, Joe Emrick and Zach Mako.

“In comparison to traditional methods of training and teaching, such as lectures and workshops, simulated-based learning has proven to be a more effective at engaging … leaners in helping them retain information better,” Kaskey said.

Kise said the program hopes to smooth the sometimes “daunting” transition for disabled students going into independent living, and highlighted the importance of inclusiveness and diversity for education.

“Denying any student a complete education isn’t just unfair, it’s shortsighted,” he said. “Their potential, their unique perspectives, their contributions — that’s a wealth we can’t afford to lose.”

The three state officials applauded the program and gave Kise a certificate of recognition for the school district’s work.

“This apartment is just so amazing, because I think it’s important that we in our community — as parents, educators — help to provide the skills needed for these children to be as independent as they can be,” Flood said.

“It’s just another example of the greatness of the Nazareth Area School District,” Emrick said.

“This is what I think K-12 should be, teaching kids life skills once they leave the classroom,” Mako said. “I think it also gives a peace of mind to the caregivers and the parents of these children, knowing that they’re moving forward and they’ll be self-sufficient moving forward.”

Staffers for officials including Rep. Susan Wild, Sen. Bob Casey and Sen. Nick Miller also attended and praised the program.

Assistant Superintendent Isabel Resende thanked everyone involved with the program’s development, including the donors, the staff who transformed the original room into an apartment, and the special education teachers.

“I’m holding back tears right now,” she said. “This is such an amazing opportunity for our students and our staff.”

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