Winston Prep School

Winston Transitions: An Alternative Gap Year

Sarah Parkes
Assistant Internship Coordinator

Walking through the halls of Winston Transitions, you will quickly realize you are not in a traditional school. Located in an office building on Madison Avenue, the campus embodies the surrounding busy work environment. At Transitions, experiential learning is at the forefront of the curriculum. Whether it be building furniture with power tools in geometry, writing resumes in professional studies, ironing and folding clothes in Independent Living Skills, or applying fractions through baking in math, students are developing skills to foster independence and success at every turn. Each lesson has practical use and implications for real-world experiences.

Part of the Winston Preparatory School, Transitions was founded as an alternative gap-year program for young adults aged 17-21 with learning differences who benefit from additional support and guidance in their transition into adulthood. The curriculum focuses on the skills needed to succeed in the workplace, college, and beyond. Through the Winston Innovation Lab initiatives, the Qualities of a Sustainable and Independent Learner (QSIL) are the core tenets of the program: Resiliency, Social Responsibility, Self-Advocacy, Self-Regulation, Self-Reflection, Social Communication Skills, Problem-Solving, and Management and Organization. Rather than focusing on letters or numerical grades, Transitions utilizes these eight dimensions to drive continuous assessment and feedback.

Academic Remediation

Transitions prides itself on individualizing curriculum through three unique components: academic, social-emotional, and employability skills, with the QSIL at the helm of this process. First, academic needs are targeted through five main courses – literacy, writing, math, health and wellness, and professional studies. We also provide courses that highlight the essential skills needed for young adults post-high school – independent living skills, contemporary issues, creative projects, environmental studies, etc. Additionally, once a month, students participate in “Independent Stations,” which supports students in achieving independence in everyday tasks and gaining transferable skills. The stations simulate a myriad of scenarios that will inevitably occur within their personal lives and employment. For students who are college-bound, Dual Enrollment courses through Landmark College are offered. These classes allow students to obtain college credit and prepare for the academic rigor of a college program, while also supporting students with learning differences devise healthy critical-thinking skills. The dual enrollment program includes dedicated time during the school day for students to meet with an onsite school liaison who ensures students understand navigation within a digital learning environment. The liaison works closely with the students to clarify technical and procedural hurdles that students typically have to resolve on their own in college.

Level of Support and Assistance

Secondly, to develop students’ social-emotional skills, the Focus program provides one-on-one support from trained professionals. These goal-oriented, individual sessions allow students to create strategies to take control of their learning and allow them to express and act upon their goals in a safe environment. Weekly yoga classes taught by a professional instructor provide students with an outlet for their anxieties and improves their physical well-being. The yoga classes mirror the curriculum, focusing on mindfulness and self-awareness. Additionally, creative projects enable students to develop problem-solving skills, which further promote confidence and pride over their work. Lastly, the students learn the power of social pragmatics in their monthly sessions with professional actors from the esteemed acting school, HB Studios.

Real-Word Job Experience

To accompany the academic courses, students apply the lessons learned at Transitions to the workplace. Immersed in the hustle and bustle of New York City, the professional attitude seeps into the mindset of students as they enter their gap-year internship. The internship program develops significant independence and cultivates students’ self-reflection of their strengths and areas for improvement. From October to June, students participate in internships in the New York City area twice a week. The worksites fall within four main categories – culinary, healthcare, retail, and office. With the students’ needs in mind, Transitions places students in well-supported and accredited organizations such as the Museum of Natural History, Housing Works, Lincoln Center, and the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum. Transitions partners with supervisors who provide meaningful feedback and direction to future members of the workforce. Designed to develop employability skills, students learn the importance of taking initiative, communication, problem-solving, teamwork, and organization. Through two formal feedback sessions, frequent visits to worksites and individual check-ins at Transitions, the Internship team ensures each student receives continual support and assessment-driven by the QSIL.

Outcomes and Successes

The academic, social-emotional, and employability components of the Transitions program achieve the overarching goal: to instill a sense of deep understanding, critical thinking, intrinsic motivation, and independence in the young adults that walk into the building, as they prepare for higher education and employability.

Learn more about Winston’s gap year program by visiting our campus page Winston Transitions.