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Alabama Transition Conference helps students adjust to life after high school

One of the largest conferences of its type in the nation, the Alabama Transition Conference unites educators, counselors, state and community leaders, parents and students in pursuit of a common goal. The event, hosted by the Auburn Transition Leadership Institute, provides a forum to advocate for students with disabilities and help them bridge the gap from high school to adulthood.   

The 23rd Alabama Transition Conference will be held March 4-5 at the Marriott at Grand National in Opelika. The event will feature workshops, concurrent sessions and a poster presentation session open to high school and university students. The conference expects to draw more than 700 attendees.   

Karen Rabren, director of the Auburn Transition Leadership Institute, a research and outreach unit of the College of Education, said the conference’s goal remains the same every year: to improve the transition of students from high school to adult life.  

“Any year I just want the participants, whatever role they function in, to have a better understanding of how to make that transition,” she said. “We want it to be seamless and not have a break.”  

The conference will feature Mike Kersjes, author of “A Smile as Big as the Moon,” as the keynote speaker. Kersjes is a former special education teacher, who accompanied the first group of students with disabilities that were able to attend Space Camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. He is the founder of Space is Special, Inc., which has sent more than 2,600 students with special needs to space camp.   

Other speakers include J. Erin Riehle, founder of Project SEARCH, along with Cinda and Linea Johnson, the mother and daughter who wrote “Perfect Chaos.” Bobby Jon Drinkard from “Survivor” will even be in attendance and is teaching a concurrent session to the younger participants on “Surviving School and Work.”  

From the keynote speaker to concurrent sessions and workshops, the conference involves speakers with a variety of backgrounds and perspectives on disabilities.

“We try to find people who are motivational, but also have a message that can meet many different audiences,” Rabren said.  

The conference will also feature the annual “Transition Update” from state leaders to inform participants of developments in Alabama. Alabama Superintendent of Education Thomas Bice, Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services Commissioner Cary Boswell and Alabama Department of Mental Health Commissioner Jim Reddich will provide the 2013 update to conclude the.   

-- Contributed by Victoria Webb

Last Updated: Feb 19, 2013

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