November 26, 2020

Opportunities Amidst the Chaos: BraveLIFE program thriving

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(Franklin, GA) — Even rural Georgia has not been spared the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the Heard County School System, however, there has been one program that has risen above the pandemic and has continued to not only educate, but provide incredible opportunities for its students.

The mascot of the school system is “Braves” and the program which educates Heard County’s most inspirational students is known as the BraveLIFE program.

The “LIFE” stands for Learning Is For Everyone. The acronym was borrowed from a program at Clemson University which provides opportunities for students with disabilities.

In the middle of a pandemic an extraordinary group of teachers has pushed their students to the forefront of what’s happening in the school buildings across the county.

The BraveLIFE program is housed at Heard County Elementary, Middle, and High schools. The learning opportunities abound as teachers push children to acquire lifelong skills and integrate their students into the very heart of the schools.

The backbone of the BraveLIFE program is Braves Coffee Company which began in 2017.

Students in the BraveLIFE program run a full service coffee cart at the Elementary and Middle School levels and have turned a classroom into a coffee shop at the High School. The myriad of skills that can be incorporated into the coffee company model have proven to be endless.

Students have shown improvement in work readiness skills, math abilities, money skills, communication, social interactions, daily living skills, cooking skills and so much more.

Along with the Coffee Shop Curriculum, teachers across all levels have implemented a standards based online curriculum specifically designed for students with disabilities that is differentiated to meet each student’s specific needs.

While Braves Coffee is integral in bringing BraveLIFE students to the forefront of school life, it has also given students opportunities beyond the classroom.

Photo: BraveLIFE

Profits from Braves Coffee Company have taken students to restaurants, movie theaters, shopping centers, grocery stores, aquariums, museums, and amusement parks just to name a few.

Braves Coffee has allowed students with special needs to become a part of the greater school environment and has also shown students the world beyond our small community.

This year amidst the pandemic, it was uncertain if Braves Coffee could continue to operate safely, but without this initiative, teachers knew that the program would suffer. So the team went to work to find solutions.

With safety protocols in place that mimic that of restaurants, students are learning the “new normal” just like the rest of the world.

They are working in masks, have equipped the coffee shop with protective barriers, follow enhanced safety measures, and have moved to online supply orders.

Just like the average household has moved to technology to social distance, the BraveLIFE program has moved outside the box to teach new life skills to our students and the students have embraced the challenge.

Several years ago, Heard County had the foresight to begin providing chromebooks to students. Students with special needs have been given that same access and through distance learning have begun to excel in this arena. Google Meets has kept the programs at each level connected.

Students are completing inventory and purchases online as well as ordering take-out lunches through online orders and curbside pickup. Cultural experiences and field trips have gone virtual as well.

Students are taking walking tours of other cities via their chromebook screens. They have visited zoos, aquariums and taken road trips without ever leaving their classrooms.

On Sept. 11, BraveLIFE students attended the memorial services at the 9/11 Museum. Teachers have incorporated outdoor sports programs and gardening initiatives to get students out of buildings.

In the coming weeks students are planning a virtual walking tour of Niiza, Japan where one of the students has a family member.

Teachers at each level have taken to social media to share with family and friends what is going on in the programs and are allowing students to share their experiences.

While other programs are circling the wagons, the BraveLIFE program is expanding to meet new technology hurdles and show students of all abilities that there is always a way to meet a challenge head on.

BraveLIFE truly exemplifies that learning IS for EVERYONE.

(Photos: Heard County School System/BraveLIFE)

Comments

  1. I don’t know this little fella but he just stole my heart.

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