Transition Fairs around NH, and a New Guide

A transition fair is a practical way to connect parents and students with local transition supports and resources as preparation for life after high school. Although planning one may seem like a daunting task, there is a new resource to help. The NH Department of Education and the Parent Information Center (PIC) collaborated through Next Steps NH to develop the Transition Fair Guide (PDF, 12 pages).

The easy to follow guide helps educators, families and students plan and host a transition fair in their community. It provides descriptions of essential components of a transition fair, along with planning tools and ideas for implementation. Research into transition practices shows that when educators, families, students, community members, and organizations work together, postsecondary outcomes improve for students with disabilities.

The idea for a guide germinated in the fall of 2015 when a PIC staff member and a NH Lend intern were brainstorming and researching how-to’s using the comprehensive National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center’s (NSTTAC) Transition Fair Toolkit.  The pair decided to invite Winnacunnet High School to the table to explore the idea further.

Winnacunnet is a large school district that includes the towns of Seabrook, Hampton, North Hampton, South Hampton and Hampton Falls. A Next Steps NH school in Cohort 2, Winnacunnet’s philosophy is focused on student-centered learning and individual growth. These are key components to helping students prepare for life after high school.

The Transition Fair Team met several times through the winter. They surveyed students to find out about their interests and invited them to planning meetings. Special education staff attended meetings to offer their input. A vision for the fair emerged and people grew excited about the possibilities. Soon a date was set, stakeholders were invited and logistics were set and shared. The fair, Your Plans, Your Journey: Links to Life after High School was held in March and was a big success.

After the fair, the team sent an electronic evaluation to all the participants, vendors and stakeholders to gather feedback. The team met to discuss what worked and didn’t work and to celebrate success. Soon other Next Steps schools began to develop interest and request guidance in planning and hosting their own transition fairs. PIC decided to develop a simple guide using the knowledge gained through the collaboration with the Winnacunnet Transition Fair Team and the resources in the NSTTAC toolkit.

The Transition Fair Guide is a new resource that schools around the State can use to plan, organize and hold successful transition fairs.  Planning a transition fair may seem complicated, but with the information and best practice tips included in this guide, your school will be able to hold a fair that is meaningful, exciting and engaging.  Below are examples from some Next Steps NH schools who recently held transition fairs.

Timberlane Regional High School’s Transition to Your Future event was Timberlane’s first transition fair.  Using the Transition Fair Timeline and Things to Consider, Timberlane geared its special education event towards students and families interested in learning more about high school services, in particular, middle school students. The event provided attendees with access to over 20 areas of specialized service, dinner (taco salad prepared and served by TRHS Culinary Arts class), free babysitting (sponsored by National Honor Society), informal tours of the building, and an informational booklet to support parent/student questions, and several raffle items for attendees.

Mascenic Regional School District’s Celebration of Learning Night was a wonderful opportunity to connect families to community agency representatives from family health supports, alternative education opportunities, mental health agencies, and other community agencies around services and information for students transitioning from high school.  Using a creative approach of combining the transition fair with the annual Celebration of Learning allowed many families to attend and partake of resources and information that they might not otherwise have received.  Thinking about their target population during pre-planning made a big difference when it came to the success of their event.

Souhegan High School presented You Are Graduating – Now What?, an evening for students and parents to explore options for post-graduation including internships, apprenticeships, trades, college, and support services after high school. The evening included a short presentation by transition-related vendors regarding their services and supports, followed by parents and staff meeting individually with vendors to talk more in-depth about their offerings.

Nute High School co-hosted a collaborative transition fair event with neighboring Farmington High School as part of their What’s Next Wednesday’s transition events series.  Parents and students explored options and resources pertaining to life after high school and had the pleasure of listening to guest speakers from the Offices of Disability Services at UNH and Great Bay Community College. The evening was capped off with a question and answer period where students and families asked the experts questions about the types of supports offered on the college level.