Green Oaks School prepares to expand mission

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In 2000, Green Oaks School in Arlington opened with a mission to serve and educate students with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities.

It grew from just four students in its first year to more than 100 students from 47 zip codes.

Now, the school is poised to expand.

Green Oaks plans to open a life prep academy that helps post-secondary students learn life and job skills that will place them on a path to independence.

Arlington Tomorrow Foundation has contributed a $1 million grant to the project, which is scheduled to open in 2020. Green Oaks is trying to raise $5.5 million.

“For so many families, this was the missing piece,” said Jean Jewell, the school’s executive director. “People with intellectual disabilities can have much fuller, more independent lives than we once realized. They just need to be taught.”

Research shows that life expectancy for people with Down syndrome has risen dramatically, from 25 years of age in 1983 to 60 today.

Yet few resources exist in Texas or the United States to help people navigate these years.

Green Oaks wants to change that.

Modeled after a program in Wisconsin, Green Oaks Life Prep will be a three-year intensive program focused on self-care, independence and training in one of two professional tracks, horticulture or culinary arts.

Students will live in a dormitory and learn about all areas of independent living, from budgeting and laundry to social skills and interpersonal relationships.

The school will provide a faith-based education and help students become engaged citizens, Jewell said.

In their third year, students will work in professional internships in their chosen track, with the goal of eventual full-time employment.

For 22-year-old Cayti Crook, Green Oaks Life Prep would fulfill a longtime dream. Cayti, who plays the piano and loves to sing, has attended Green Oaks since she was 7 years old.

“Cayti has wanted to be a college student forever,” said her father, Chuck Crook. “This opens up a whole new chapter in her life and the lives of all of the students. We are all thrilled by the possibilities.”

Jewell said the community’s support has been instrumental in helping Green Oaks.

“We are so grateful for the help of Arlington Tomorrow Foundation,” she said. “Their support made a big statement to the community, and it means so much to us.”

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