Spreading the Word: March's State Resource Fair at Warwick Mall

By Sara Porcaro | April 2, 2019

Last week, the Warwick Mall was abuzz with activity, from shoppers looking for the latest spring fashions to friends laughing over cups of froyo. But on this busy Wednesday afternoon, the long mall corridor between Macy's and Target had another attraction: tables stocked with pamphlets, free trinkets, and colorful displays, all representing private human service agencies and RI state agencies. So kicked off the mall-wide event, bringing teens and their parents out to shop for information at the Statewide Transition Resource Fair!

The Statewide Transition Resource Fair was an event where parents and their school-age teens receiving special education could learn about the many options available to them for life after graduation. Whether parents and youth were coming to learn more aboutopportunities in college education, volunteerism, employment training, or day and residential services--or even about Rhode Island's public transportation system and voter registration--all were represented among the thirty-eight vendors.There were also raffles for event attendees, with prizes like a $150 gift certificate for the Warwick Mall and a one-year membership to Planet Fitness.

At the Event

Senior Director Sean Cornell represented Perspectives alongside Education Coordinator Daniel (Dan) Johnson, Senior Directors Dale Smalley, Nancy Lewis-Oliver, and Kim Einloth, and other Perspectives professionals.

"Normally we attend fairs sponsored by high schools and certain regions," noted Sean, "but turnout largely depends on each community's needs. It's exciting to be a part of the initiative to make these resources more broadly available across the state with a central fair."

One such resource wasTailor-Made Training, represented by owner Joyce Perry and Lead Instructor Deb Baker. Their services include training individuals to work in medical offices, with hands-on experiences and individualized learning plans. Beside them was Carlos Avila of Bristol Community College, alongside other schools like Rhode Island College and University of Rhode Island, all of whom were sharing information on the schools' disability services and transition services from high school to college.Other vendors included West Bay Residential, Looking Upwards Inc., Advocates in Action, and Tamarack HorsePowerment. State offices, like the Office of Rehabilitation Services (ORS) and the RI Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals (BHDDH), were also in attendance.

Two event attendees, a mother and her son Ryan, came to the resource fair looking for information about agency services and employment opportunities available after high school. They toured through several tables together, including Tailor-Made Training and the Sherlock Center, and they enjoyed seeing all the fair had to offer, as well as talking to the professionals about all the opportunities that awaited him in the future.

Regarding his dream career, Ryan says, "I want to be a zookeeper one day; my favorite animal is the bear!"

West Bay Regional Transition Center Coordinator, Therese Curran,notes, "The last central fair was in 2007. Regional fair turnout depends on which part of the state they're in, and we wanted something where people from anywhere in Rhode Island could find all the information they're looking for. Whether for a parent of a fourteen-year-old or a twenty-one year old, there's something here for everyone."

"It's great seeing so many vendors here," says Dan. "Having a statewide fair, especially in a public place like the mall, it makes it easier to get information to people who need it. Some people we talked to didn't realize this event was going on today, and they were excited to be able to get some answers about transitional services for a loved one."

For four hours on a fine spring day, the Warwick Mall became more than a shopping center and a social hangout spot: it became a vibrant hub of information, full of teens and parents excited to discover the next steps for adult life. With so many resources available, and so many options out there to live one's best life, there truly is something for everyone.

Our thanks to the RI Department of Education, the Office of Student, Community, and Academic Support, and to the RI Regional Transition Centers for organizing this amazing Statewide Transitional Resource Fair!