/ Announcements / Building a Future of Independence: You can help make the Lakeland STAR Transition Center a Reality

Building a Future of Independence: You can help make the Lakeland STAR Transition Center a Reality

Lakeland STAR, a charter school catering to diverse learners including those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), makes a profound difference in the lives of their students by building skills and confidence. Now, after five years in operation and increased demand, they’re adding a Transition Center to help older students build their capacity for independence.

“My son Sam is on the spectrum. He just turned 18 and has benefited tremendously from the programming at STAR,” said Gregg Walker, Howard Young Foundation Board Member and Lakeland Times Publisher. “I think the chances of him living independently are very high thanks to the support he’s had and the skills he’ll build on at the Transition Center.”

Students with ASD or other disabilities who have an Individualized Education Plan can remain in the Lakeland STAR program until they are 21 to gain independent living skills and transition to the workforce or post-secondary education. The school is at their current maximum capacity of 38 students with dozens on a waiting list. 

“We’re busting at the seams right now,” said DeLynn Charon, Case Manager and 18-21 Transition Teacher at STAR Academy. “Everyone's very excited about the Transition Center. It's going to open in fall of 2022 and will allow us a lot more space. It's also going to be sensory friendly, which is important. And it is visible in the community, which is also great.”

Community support for the Transition Center is impressive. 

“Fundraising for Lakeland STAR and autism services in general has always been unbelievable,” Gregg stated. “This past year the Women's Legacy Council, an affiliate of the Howard Young Foundation, jumped in, and in one event they raised over $300,000 to put towards the Transitions Center building. On top of that, our golf event raised over $1.35 million for autism services in the Northwoods.”

The community’s generosity made it possible to secure and remodel a building to create the Transition Center. Aspirus has been a great partner for Lakeland STAR and brought in the Samuels Group, a Wausau based commercial contracting firm, to head up the building remodel. Everyone working on this project is donating back some of their service fees.

“The Center will have a living area, kitchen, laundry, three classrooms, bathrooms, two sensory rooms, a workout space, an office area and possibly a retail space where students can sell products they’ve made,” DeLynn explained. “Students will work on soft skills and learn how to take care of a home, plan meals, shop, cook, do their laundry, budget and pay bills. Everything is geared toward living a successful and fulfilling independent life.”

Students in their junior year begin practical work experience in the community. They will continue to work with area employers and transition agencies like the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) and Headwaters, Inc. through the Transition Center as well.

“I think the Howard Young Foundation, Lakeland STAR, Aspirus, Howard Young Medical Center, the Women’s Legacy Council and all the partnerships we've built have been phenomenal,” Gregg said. “The support we get from all the entities and the willingness to work together to help these children has made a difference already. We're building this incredible program in the community and we’re building these children an opportunity.”

You can support the Lakeland STAR Transition Center or other autism services by donating to the Howard Young Foundation’s Autism Services Fund at howardyoungfoundation.org. 

To learn more about Lakeland STAR visit lakelandstar.org or call 715-358-5259.

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