Letter from Shift New Jersey's Founder
I originally began my career as a high school history teacher at a school for students with emotional disabilities prior to launching Shift NJ in September of 2012. While working as a high school educator, I began to notice a disturbing trend: most of our graduates, with few exceptions, ended up out of school or work with no plan for the future within six months of graduation. They had lost all of the progress that they had made during high school, and regressed into a state of depression and dependency. As their former educator, I felt partly responsible. How had we failed to prepare them for life as an independent adult? Why was the transition process so difficult? I held on to these questions as I began to pursue my Master’s Degree in special education at Montclair State University. While I was there, I was able to take newly created courses on transition services. As I learned more about the transition services available to some students, it was clear that there were still many gaps in the system. I began to develop a transition program of my own, and after graduating with my Master’s Degree, I left my job to start Shift NJ.
Most transitions in life are difficult, yet the jump from high school to employment or college is one of the largest and most arduous. Students leave a supportive environment where they are watched over by teachers and given accommodations to a world that expects them to be mostly self-sufficient. The evidence of difficulty is clear: only 56% of students graduate with a Bachelor's degree in six years, and only 30% of students that attend community college finish in three years. Combine this with the fact that employment for students between the ages of 17-24 has dropped by over 20%, and you get the perfect recipe for disaster. Currently, families are spending 10% of their money on young adult children.
Whenever a new problem emerges, our natural instinct is to find who is to blame: schools, colleges, guidance counselors, the economy, the kids themselves. The truth that I have come to accept is that no one is to blame, but rather a new need has naturally emerged through gaps in the system as a whole. This need is for services that specifically help students transition to life as an independent adult. These services must teach the non-academic skills that are getting lost in transition: financial literacy, self-advocacy, communication, work place etiquette, time management, organization, resume and cover letter development, how to deal with negative emotions and outcomes, resiliency, personal responsibility, and so on. The creation of this program is not an admission of failure on anyone’s part, but rather it is an extra layer of support for students who are just not ready to make the jump head first into adulthood.
By providing young adults with the resources, skills, and supports they need to be successful, Shift has been able to create tremendous turnarounds in the lives of young adults. I thank you for taking the time to look into Shift Transition, and I encourage you to schedule a free consultation so we can further discuss how our services may benefit your son or daughter.
Owner/ Program Director