Students with Special Needs Learn Life Skills While Keeping Reba’s Ranch House in Shape

Four summers ago, Angele Johnson sat at her computer and typed, “volunteer opportunities for Sherman Texas.” She was determined to find the right place for her students in the Grayson County Co-op Special Education service. They needed an outreach in the community that doubled as a chance to teach them life skills in the Grayson Co-Op FLITE Team program – “Foundations of Learning Independence through Transitional Experiences.”

This transition program is for Angele’s students to discover their abilities, aptitudes, and to teach them basic life and work skills. FLITE is in its seventh year as part of the Grayson County Co-op Special Education service, and helps students transition from high school to young adulthood.

“The need was so great to have something for students with those abilities to be able to do something with those abilities,” Angele says. “This program was designed for those who want to seek employment.”

A happy coincidence, or something more?

When Angele hit search on her Internet browser, up popped the opportunity she was looking for: Reba’s Ranch House.

“To me, it was a God-thing,” she says.

Angele visited Reba’s Ranch House and met with director Marilyn Bice. They discussed ways to incorporate the students as volunteers.

Learning how to function in a work environment

“Basically, we help keep the house in running order,” Angele says. “During the school year, we come in twice a week and make beds, do laundry, sweep, dust mop, polish. These are all functional life skills the students have the opportunity to learn to do.”

From tucking the sheets tight to knowing how the towels should be folded, the students are learning how a job may require them to do things a particular way. It’s teaching them how to function in a work environment, from resolving disagreements to taking on leadership roles.

“There’s something magical about having one student teach another,” Angele says. “They retain, they remember, they know what to do. I love it when they tell others, ‘this is how we do it at Reba’s.’”

Interactions with guests make an impact

Of the 950 annual guests that stay at Reba’s Ranch House, the students meet them occasionally.

“Reba’s people always make sure we are introduced to whomever we encounter,” Angele says. “That’s great social skills where my kids can say, ‘Hi, I’m so-and-so,’ and show they know how to appropriately shake hands and introduce themselves.”

At the end of a task, the students step back and experience one of the most fundamentally gratifying things in life — the knowledge of a job well done.

“They love it when they see the room they just completed is clean,” Angele says. “When we cleaned the windows this morning, they saw the difference. They said, ‘Don’t touch the windows, guys, they’re clean!’ It’s an interesting correlation between the work and what they see.”

Become a volunteer

Volunteers are an essential part of Reba’s Ranch House, and we are grateful to partner with the FLITE Team. If you are interested in volunteering at Reba’s Ranch House, please contact Marilyn Bice at 903-463-7322 or visit our “You Can Help” page.