Success Story: Staying in touch with Lizzie Affonso,

A transition co-op alum keeps her relationships strong

Can you imagine life after graduating from your transition program? How about ten years, or even twenty years after graduation? Do you wonder how all those lessons learned as a transition student will make a difference, decades down the road?

If you asked Lizzie and Sandy Affonso, they’d answer that transition program experiences do matter. And they would know, because Lizzie was a transition student in Bend almost twenty years ago. Lizzie and her mom, Sandy, agree that the people that she met and the skills that she gained during those years still make a positive difference in her life, every day.


Meet Lizzie: A magnetic personality, and a whiz in the kitchen!

Lizzie started in the Bend-LaPine school district in the fourth grade at Kenwood Elementary (now named Highland Magnet at Kenwood School) in fourth grade. That year, she forged a strong bond with her special education teacher, Lauri Powers.

As Powers said, “Lizzie has one of those irresistible personalities. Anyone who becomes part of Lizzie’s tribe will never want to leave. She has that kind of impact on people.”

The Affonsos stayed in close contact with Powers as they moved to Sisters for high school, then back to Bend for the transition co-op. They still enjoy spending time together today. Lizzie, now age 37, lives in her own apartment exactly one floor below Sandy’s apartment at Touchmark at Mount Bachelor Village. She keeps a busy schedule. In addition to caring for her dog and lush garden of plants, Lizzie cooks for herself (and often for Sandy, too).

As Sandy explained, Lizzie learned the basics of cooking at the transition program. Lizzie worked with Sandy in the kitchen of their bed and breakfast in Sisters. “I thought she could help me in the kitchen. But I was her helper instead! Lizzie did all the prep and mixing from scratch for biscuits, eggs, casseroles, and hash browns. I just worked the oven and stove,” said Sandy. These days, Lizzie loves to make spaghetti or BBQ ribs.


Working on the river with Tumalo Creek Rentals.

This past summer, Powers helped Lizzie settle into a new job that matched her outgoing personality and her love of organization as well. At Tumalo Creek Rental Kiosk, located at Riverbend Park in Bend, she was part of the team that rented the big orange float tubes and life jackets for floating the Deschutes River.

Lizzie would arrive early at the rental kiosk, and start her work day by lining up the life jackets by size. Then she stacked the float tubes so they were ready for easy pickup. When people arrived, she greeted them with her sign that said:

Hi I’m Lizzie. Welcome to Tumalo Creek. Please line up at the black tent.

“Lizzie is great with people, and she’s very reliable so she is an excellent employee. It’s also a nice introduction to Tumalo Creek’s business, when people see someone with diverse abilities as the greeter,” said Powers.

For Lizzie, taking her paycheck to the bank was just as enjoyable as the work itself. She learned how to use a bank account and manage money while at the transition co-op. Powers often accompanied her to the bank, but Lizzie made her transactions on her own. She usually chose to deposit part of each check to save for bigger items like an iPhone or computer. She’d also keep some cash to go shopping for books, clothes, or video games. Another reward for her work came at the end of the season, when she joined the employee party to celebrate a successful summer on the river.


Part of the Touchmark Community

Now that the river rental job has finished for the year, Lizzie is focusing on life in her Touchmark community. She works regularly in the Life Enrichment office, with a supervisor who puts together a daily task list with responsibilities that match her strengths. For example, she posts information on bulletin boards and in elevators, keeping all the pages neat and up to date. She writes anniversary and birthday cards and delivers them to mailboxes throughout the Touchmark compound–through the cottages, apartments, and the river lodge. Lizzie hopes to begin working in the Touchmark dining room soon, as well.

Looking back, Sandy sees how the transition co-op accelerated Lizzie’s independence. “She learned things like calendar skills, managing money, and how to use the dial-a-ride to get to school,” said Sandy. And along the way, she created a team of supportive friends, like Powers, who plan to be part of her tribe for decades yet to come.