WPU Transitions

NJSBA Article on Benway School Award Winning Transitions Program!

The following article was published in School Leader a publication by the New Jersey School Board Association:


The Benway School Transitions Program The Benway School Transitions Program in Wayne, in Passaic County, started in September 2018. It consists of a partnership between the New Jersey state approved private special education school for students with emotional, behavioral, and learning challenges in grades 1-12R, with William Paterson University’s “Pathway to Professional Careers,” which places transitioning students aged 18 to 21 in a college setting.

The WPUNJ Transitions program provides the ability for Benway to implement each student’s Individualized Improvement Plan goals. A share time program offers dual enrollment for students in 11th and 12th grade that provides them with marketable professional certifications and the ability to hone job exploration, time management, public speaking and goal setting skills.

“The wide variety of course offerings, collegiate setting, and the economically advantageous aspect of this program motivates students to participate in self-discovery as they set a solid foundation for their future,” Danielle Bourne, director, wrote in her application letter. “Benway provides this program to their students at no additional cost to the district, it is free for the student, and it reaches over 150 districts within their geographical region.”

As a result, students receive college-level instruction, transportation to and from the college, and additional transitional services at the same cost of their undergraduate program. “This cost-effective approach allows Benway to expand its reach to students in northern New Jersey who do not have access to such high-quality instruction and support, Bourne said.

The pre-college program’s curriculum addresses self-led transitional presentations, resume building, job coaching, selective learning experiences, community-based instruction, universal design and self-advocacy skills with the support of William Paterson University staff for IEP meetings.

Each year, the reach and success of the program grows, Bourne said. “The program has proven to be flexible as the students explore their interests,” she said. “Additionally, during the pandemic, students were still provided instruction virtually.”

As a result of the program, students have earned certifications in areas such as being a home health aide, phlebotomy, graphic design, Adobe and other areas. “Students who participate in the shared time program return to Benway in the afternoon to receive supplemental transitional services tailored to their specific needs,” Bourne said. These services include therapeutic counseling and SEL programming to aid in problem solving.

A lot of credit must go to the Transitions coordinator, Joli Simpson, who has collaborated with the university over the past five years to promote student success, Bourne said. “Her reach in helping to develop programs does not only benefit the students of Benway, but hundreds of special education students who attend William Paterson University’s pre-and post-graduate programs,” she said. “In addition, Joli has worked with the university to provide best practices so that student teachers can leave with the most impactful knowledge about working with students with disabilities with an emphasis on acceptance and use of diversification.”

Benway offers more than 150 districts in its geographic reach the opportunity to send their students to the program at no additional cost to the district. It is free for the student.

“Several of our districts currently take advantage of this excellent program,” said Elizabeth Alves, a special education teacher at Benway School. “We are proud to say that our students have been empowered to achieve their individual goals in an environment that fosters independence and supports their emotional needs to feel both safe and part of an important community.”

The Innovations in Special Education winners were recognized during a May 12 Facebook Live event hosted by the New Jersey School Boards Association. They also received a commemorative plaque to place in their school or school district building and an Innovations in Special Education Award badge to post on their respective websites.