By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Funded by the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services, the Oklahoma Transition Council is sponsoring a three-day conference, Monday through Wednesday, October 12 through 14 in Norman.
Families and employers are encouraged to participate in the 10th Oklahoma Transition Institute (OTI) with educators, employment counselors and other partners dedicated to helping Oklahoma youth with disabilities prepare for employment and independent life after high school.
The OTI will be held at the Marriott Conference Center at National Center for Employee Development (NCED) located at 2801 East State Highway 9. Conference days are October 13 and 14. Advance registration is required.
The council consists of 32 organizations, including the DRS, Oklahoma Autism Network, Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education, University of Oklahoma Zarrow Center for Learning Enrichment and Oklahoma ABLETech.
Other council members include Tech-Now, Inc., Oklahoma Family Network, Oklahoma Department of Human Services, the Parent Training and Information Center of Oklahoma, as well as public schools and other community partners.
“The OTI is an essential learning and sharing experience for those helping youth with disabilities prepare for life after high school,” DRS Transition Coordinator Kim Osmani said. “There is so much focus on getting kids through high school and to graduation, but what happens the very next day after graduation? What’s the plan? Who is taking charge of that plan? That’s what OTI is all about.
“Participants at this event continue to grow from over 300 people our first year to over 500 the last several years,” she continued. “For our 10th year, we are focusing on fostering independence in all aspects of life, and our keynote speakers and breakout session presenters will help deliver information along those lines.”
The conference keynote speaker is actor, producer, director and screenwriter Joey Travolta, older brother of actor John Travolta. He will share information about Inclusion Films, the production company he founded to train students with developmental disabilities to work in the film industry. Travolta and his staff will screen the film “Lights, Cameras, Independence” in the evening on Tuesday, October 13.
As a former Special Education teacher, Travolta believes in “ability over disability.”
“We have to change the way people think about people with disabilities,” Travolta said. “These kids can work, and make a difference, and make a living.”
Former college All-American and professional football player Errict Rhett will also offer a keynote presentation and participate in a photo and autograph session. He was a running back in the National Football League for seven seasons and played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns.
“Participants will gain new information, discover beneficial resources, share effective strategies, and hopefully walk away with a deep appreciation for the need to truly help prepare our youth for the next phase in their lives,” Osmani said.
Those who wish to present at the conference are encouraged to download the online Call for Proposals (doc) here.
Organizers will give priority to proposals that incorporate the themes “Fostering Independence in Transition Aged Youth” and the “Employment First Philosophy.”
More information about Employment First is included here.
Oklahoma Transition Institute participants may pre-register for $25. Registration at the door is $50. Sponsorships, exhibitor tables and program advertisements are available to help organizers reduce costs.
OTI attendees can stay at the NCED Conference Center & Hotel by calling 405-447-9000.
To register for the 10th Oklahoma Transition Institute or get more information, click here. Walk up registration is available also at the event.
For more information, contact Kimberly Osmani, Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services Transition coordinator at 405-635-2768 or Larry Hartzell, DRS programs field representative, at 405-635-2759. Visit www.okdrs.gov to learn more.