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Alexandria Area High School’s Transition Center helps students lead their best life

— Sara Richards, Jenn Seesz, Beth Ingersoll and Ellen Anderson from the Transition Center, along with two students — Isaiah Allen and Sebastian Billings — provided an update to school board members at the

meeting Monday, April 15.

A new tool students use at the Transitiion Center is the Disability Hub MN — Charting the Life Course. Billings, who is from Alexandria, shared a little bit about using the website and his plans for after he graduates from the Transition Center.

He said he needs to learn how to be independent because of his life situation, which includes losing both his birth parents and more recently, losing all of his personal belongings and his step brother in a house fire on Feb. 14. He lives with his aunt, but has made the choice to live on his own with support when he feels ready.

In using the new website, Billings was able to work through the four planning paths — best life, work, benefits and housing — to set up goals for himself. When he completes one path, the website generates a PDF with his information. He handed out one of the PDFs to school board members so they could see what the information looked like. The page he printed out for them focused on his relationships, personal strengths and community based support, among others.

“There is also a life trajectory of the things to do and things to avoid,” said Billings. “And what I want and don’t want for my vision and an overall profile of my best life, what people like about me, what’s important to me and how to best support me.”


After sharing more about what he has learned using the website, Billings said that so far he is going good and that by the time he graduates from the Transition Center, he should be able to live independently with support from his people.

Allen, who is from Glenwood, will be graduating from the Transition Center this year. He currently works at Massman Automation in Villard. Allen said he sorts parts to put on the carts. One of the things he said he is working on is staying on task. He said he is respectful and works hard and that he enjoys getting involved in the community. He is a member of the Glenwood Lions and he attends Golden “K” Kiwanis meetings.

When Allen was done sharing, he said, “My best life would be living on the lake in Glenwood with a roommate and working full time at Massman.”

The Transition Center currently has 15 students with more than 30 slated for next year.

Unified Physical Education

Carter Czichotzki, a physical education teacher at the Alexandria Area High School, shared information about a new program implemented called Unified Physical Education.

He said it was offered in the fall semester. Unified Physical Education focuses on communication, developing skills and building a community with students of all different learning disabilities.

The course encompasses developmentally appropriate activities including lifetime activities, physical fitness and sport. Czichotzki said students with disabilities (athletes) are paired up with general population students (partners). During the fall class, there were 15 athletes who were paired up with 13 partners. He noted they would like to have a one-to-one ratio, but they were two partners short.

The agenda includes a question of the day, time for learning skills and rules of the game or activity and then time for the athletes and partners to participate in the challenges and games.


“One of the main goals was to make students feel empowered and make them feel like we’re all one school,” said Czichotzki. “And then also, how can we continue to expand that outside of the classroom into our whole school environment.”

He shared a personal story of when he was in high school. One of his best friends, Sam, has Down Syndrome and he said that Sam had such a positive impact on him. He said they not only went to school together but also played sports together and ate lunch together.

“It was something I always looked forward to. Sam always brightened my day whether it was good or bad,” Czichotzki said. “I always had a smile on my face after lunch. So having this opportunity to get to know him and continue that relationship to this day is something I cherish and something I want to provide to students here at Alexandria Area High School.”

He added that he thinks it is awesome that students with disabilities have the opportunity to take classes with general population students.

Czichotzki noted he was not the only teacher and that he co-taught the class with Chad Norman.

“We took photos throughout the whole semester and from the very beginning to the end, you can just see all those relationships building and the relationships that were developed,” he said.

The class was impactful

Emma Ramstorf, a junior at AAHS, was in the class and a partner for one of the athletes. She said the class truly impacted her and that she was grateful for the opportunity.

“I think it taught you life lessons that you don’t usually get to learn in math class or chemistry,” said Ramstorf. She added that it taught the partners more than just communication skills, but also how to build relationships on a deeper level and getting to know the people who you hang around.


“I still sit with a couple of the athletes at lunch and still talk to them,” she said. “I go in and play games with them, too.”

Ramstorf said that going into that class at the end of the day helped because it would make her so happy.

“You play games, you’re doing something fun, building relationships and making jokes,” she said. “I think we told the same joke just about every day and everybody still laughed. It was so fun.”

She also shared that when she went into her junior year, her plans were to become a dental hygienist. However, after going through the Unified Physical Education program, it brought her new perspective and now she wants to become a psychologist so she can work with individuals with special needs past high school.

There are 46 students already signed up for the next class and now Czichotzki is hoping they can find enough athletes.

AAHS Principal, Chad Duwenhoegger, said he talked with a general education student who told him that he typically never talked with special education students but after being in the class, he talks with them every day.

“Some of you know that I have a daughter with Down Syndrome so that is really cool to see those relationships and have those kids feel really more included in our school,” he said.

There was a lot more School Board members learned about and discussed in the meeting, which can be