Seeing what’s possible after graduation
When Tyler Saejow was a student at the Centennial Transition Center (CTC) in East Portland, he wasn’t sure what the future would hold for him. He never imagined that five years after graduating from the CTC he would have the full, busy life he now leads.
Saejow graduated from CTC in 2017. Since that time, he has moved out of his family home into a nearby apartment, which he shares with a roommate. He rides public transportation to get around town, including to his job at Target. And, he stays connected to family, friends, and to his past CTC teachers.
How did all the pieces come together for Saejow? Looking back, he sees that his experiences at the CTC laid the foundation for his success.
The timeline from student to employee
Saejow was part of a CTC pilot project that aimed to help students shift from school to work as seamlessly as possible. Sarah Statham, who worked with Saejow at the CTC and now serves as the transition network facilitator, explained the goal of the project.
“Before students graduate, we take them through the job discovery process. We get them connected to Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) and to job coaches. Students are set up for supported employment before they exit the public school system,” she said.
Deven Kautza, CTC teacher, agrees. “When we work collaboratively, our students engage with the network of people that will stay with them beyond school. They are already familiar with the support systems as they start their jobs, and that feels good.”
A seamless transition includes more than work experiences. Learning to get around town matters too! As a student, Saejow practiced using public transportation with his teacher and classmates. He became comfortable with figuring out the routes and time schedules. Now he rides the TriMet buses and MAX light rail trains wherever he needs to go.
Saejow also remembers exploring different workplaces while at CTC, with a job coach from Dirkes Counseling & Consulting. They checked out a position in the kitchen at IKEA, which was not the kind of work he wanted. They looked at jobs at the MODA center, which felt too big and crowded. And then they talked with the supervisors at Target, who made Saejow feel welcome and supported.
He began working at Target while still a CTC student. In fact, he had to ask for the day off in order to attend his CTC graduation ceremony—a memory that makes both Saejow and Statham smile.
“The people there were so nice. They are the part of my job that I like the best,” said Saejow. He also likes that his days are active and he gets to move a lot, as he collects and arranges the shopping carts outside and inside the store. This year, Saejow is also learning cashier and checkout duties, and helps with the self-checkout station.
When students succeed, teachers succeed
The teachers at CTC stay in touch with students after graduation, to follow up and see where their lives are taking them. Saejow stays in contact too, and even comes back to the classroom occasionally to volunteer.
Statham and Kautza appreciate staying connected to Saejow. As Statham explained, teachers don’t often have the chance to see their students thriving after they graduate.
“We’re in the trenches creating lessons and instruction for our current classes. We rarely look up to take in the results of all that work. When you run into a past student and see they are leading a good life and are part of a community, it feels so good because that is exactly what we want for each of them. Successes like Tyler’s remind us that we’re on the right track,” said Statham.
Saejow agrees that the work he put into his transition program put him on the right track. He plans to stay on that track: working at Target and staying in close touch with his friends, former teachers, and his family.