February 18, 2020

18+ Program: Supporting KIPPsters with special needs through community-based learning

Nichole DaSilva has always dreamed about a career in the medical field. The 19-year old was elated to earn a year-long internship at a Georgetown, Texas hospital. It’s a job that she and her mother, Maria DaSilva, never thought would be possible.

Several years before, Nichole had been diagnosed with a genetic disorder and autism, resulting in developmental delays, difficulties in school, and lower educational expectations until high school. Then, she enrolled in KIPP Austin Collegiate.

Maria noticed a difference in her daughter almost immediately. “The teachers helped her and she was able to learn much more,” Maria said.

Nichole was the first student in KIPP Austin Collegiate’s 18+ Program, designed for students with disabilities who are past the typical high-school graduation age. Through community-based learning, this program aims to build critical skills needed for employment, home living, lifelong learning, and leisure.

“Our goal is to provide students with the tools they need to pursue their life of choice,” said Rachel Korngut, M.Ed., KIPP Texas Public Schools special education continuum manager.

The 18+ Program offers students who graduate from KIPP Austin Collegiate continued assistance to set attainable short- and long-term goals and begin building a foundation for greater independence. The school works collaboratively with students, teachers, parents and the community.

Although the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires schools to help students design “transition plans” and provide job training for their lives after graduation, a majority of adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities are unemployed or underemployed.

KIPP Texas educators are working hard to change that. Special Programs team members helped Nichole build an individualized plan for her to transition to adulthood that includes her life goals: career, post-secondary education, social life and daily living skills. Nichole is halfway through a year-long internship at a hospital and completed a semester at Austin Community College last year. Plus, she’s learning to cook!

Three more students are graduating this year and will enter the 18+ Program and begin their transition to adulthood, independence and personal growth. Nichole has become a role model to these future graduates and an example of how individuals with disabilities can become successful and productive members of society, living satisfying and rewarding lives.


KIPP Texas serves approximately 2,500 students in special education. Our holistic approach serves the needs of children with mild to moderate disabilities including speech and learning delays and more significant impairments such as intellectual disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, behavioral challenges, and others.

KIPP Texas teachers blend small-group instruction and technology in creative ways to personalize learning and keep children encouraged, engaged, and continuously learning. Start your child’s journey today by completing our online application. Hurry and enroll before the Feb. 21, 2020 deadline.