Students in this PA high school program set their own goals — it may be the secret to their success.

About 20 years ago, the students in one Pennsylvania high school's special education program decided they weren't learning enough in the classroom.

Sure, there are some transition skills that can be taught within a school building: how to count change, how to cook (on a single burner), how to sweep linoleum floors.


Instructor Jenny and a student work on money skills. Image via PSPB Creative Group.

But actually learning to be semi-independent in the real world? That's gonna take some practice.

They came up with an idea: an apartment outside of school where they could take turns living and practicing life skills with a transition coach.

That program (called LifeLink) was so successful that it's now a regular part of the curriculum for the Wild Dream Team, the special education program based at State College Area High School in Pennsylvania.

Wild Dream Team students learn how to navigate the bus system. Image courtesy of Jenny Yost-Lee.

"The students came to the conclusion that the classroom methods we were using to teach transition skills weren't sufficient," explains instructor Jenny Yost-Lee. "And they wanted to create a plan that enabled them to learn the skills in the real world."

At the LifeLink apartment, Wild Dream Team students have the opportunity to practice their skills in an environment that's a bit riskier than the classroom — no parents allowed.

It's a huge step forward for students with learning and developmental disabilities who want to push themselves. And it's a perfect complement to the transition curriculum they're learning in school.

The Wild Dream Team helps students with disabilities set goals to reach whatever level of independence is right for them.

All the while, Jenny Yost-Lee and the rest of the staff provide a supportive environment to help students reach those goals.

"My mission is to make [each student] a good neighbor," explains Jenny.

The students' goals, of course, vary widely: join Spanish club, spend a week in the LifeLink apartment, commit to a volunteer position in the community.

Jenny doesn't much care what the students can't do because of their disabilities. "I know what they can't do," she says. "That doesn't matter. I want to know what they can do."

A Wild Dream Team student in a job training program. Image courtesy of Jenny Yost-Lee.

But Jenny doesn't set goals for the students. Instead, they're the ones deciding what they want to do next.

"It's incredibly empowering when the students choose their own goals," Jenny explains. "When they say, 'I'm ready. I want to do this.'"

"This is about showing people what we can do."

Once a student has set a goal, though, that's when Jenny and the team step in. When a student commits to trying something new, "[they] do it unabashedly. There's no turning back."

Although Jenny may have a pivotal role in the success of the Wild Dream Team, she insists, "This is not about me. This is about the students and the team. It's about showing people what we can do."

Want to see for yourself what the students and the program can do? Take a look.

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I'm staring at my screen watching the President of the United States speak before a stadium full of people in North Carolina. He launches into a lie-laced attack on Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and the crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!"

The President does nothing. Says nothing. He just stands there and waits for the crowd to finish their outburst.

WATCH: Trump rally crowd chants 'send her back' after he criticizes Rep. Ilhan Omar www.youtube.com

My mind flashes to another President of the United States speaking to a stadium full of people in North Carolina in 2016. A heckler in the crowd—an old man in uniform holding up a TRUMP sign—starts shouting, disrupting the speech. The crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!"

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via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

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Policing women's bodies — and by consequence their clothes — is nothing new to women across the globe. But this mother's "legging problem" is particularly ridiculous.

What someone wears, regardless of gender, is a personal choice. Sadly, many folks like Maryann White, mother of four sons, think women's attire — particularly women's leggings are a threat to men.

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Not only did the good guys show up for the thread, but their stories show how men can interrupt situations when they see women being mistreated and help put a stop to it.

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