ACCESS House program grows in second year

ACCESS House student Matt Runde shakes hands with De Soto USD 232 technology worker Aaron Pflughoft at the ACCESS House open house on Wednesday, Sept. 28. Runde, a new student at ACCESS House, was in charge of showing visitors the conference room and explaining what it is used for.

ACCESS House student Matt Runde shakes hands with De Soto USD 232 technology worker Aaron Pflughoft at the ACCESS House open house on Wednesday, Sept. 28. Runde, a new student at ACCESS House, was in charge of showing visitors the conference room and explaining what it is used for. by Laura Herring

De Soto USD 232's ACCESS House program, which teaches students 18-21 life skills for independent living and community integration, is now in its second year and has grown considerably.

"We have 10 students this year, up from seven last year," said district Transition Specialist Belinda De Schrijver. "Ten students doesn't sound like that many but really it's a 30 percent increase and we're somewhat maxed out with the space we have."

Despite the minor space crunch, things are running smoothly at the ACCESS House, especially compared to the chaos of last year.

"Things are hectic with so many students but in a good way," said De Schrijver. "We're settled in our building now and in the community and that's been a huge help."

Each student at ACCESS House has a job in the community to help him or her build life and employment skills. Some of these partners include the De Soto branch of the Johnson County Library, Hillside Village and Midnight Farm in Eudora.

New student Matt Runde sorts books and DVDs at the library once a week.

"I have fun at the library," Runde said. "I get to look at the cool books and movies while I sort them."

Students also operate their own small business, making and selling dog treats. De Schrijver hopes to add another business in the next year or two, funded by the profits of the treat business.

"The dog treat business is doing really well, it's grown so much since last year and we've really retained our client base," she said.

Four students will be aging out of the program this year. Michael Pierce, TyAaron Wilson, Justin Schmitt and Kelly Evans will all be graduating in the spring.

"It will be a sad good-bye but I think we've taught them what they need to know and they'll continue to be supported by their families," said De Schrijver.

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