Partnership Yields Real-World Skills for Students with Special Needs

Jones High School graduate Cynthia Nieves puts labels on supply bags at a Walgreens pharmacy as a part of her training in the HISD/HCC Transition Program.

Some students need just a little extra help to become self-sufficient—and that’s where the HISD/HCC Transition Program comes in.

This partnership between the district and the local community college system, which began in 1994, was designed for students with cognitive disabilities who have already met the district’s graduation requirements.

HISD teachers work collaboratively with Houston Community College instructors to help students learn skills they can use in obtaining meaningful employment, such as the art of interviewing, how to complete applications, and the characteristics of good employees.

Participants go on field trips to master practical tasks such as riding a bus, reading a schedule, or counting out exact change. They also hear from guest speakers and obtain training on how to conduct themselves in a professional setting, at job sites such as Memorial Hermann Hospital, Walgreens, and Goodwill Industries.

“This program has training sites that offer us skills we have never learned before,” said Johnny Avalos, a program participant and graduate of Waltrip High School.

To date, approximately 450 HISD students have benefitted from this program.

For more information, please contact vocational teacher Jilianne Barzilla at or Special Education Program Specialist Lillian Conway at