Hononegah students reflect on Fast Track experience


Carina and Nikolas Hafele were joined by their teacher and case manager, Mr. Fasula after presenting their experience with the Fast Track program which is run through RAMP.

With the support of their teacher and case manager, Mr. Mike Fasula, Hononegah Community High School seniors Carina Hafele and her brother Nikolas have gained valuable insight into succeeding despite their disabilities. They participated in the Fast Track program which is run through RAMP

Statistics show that one in four people have a disability. 

Fast Track Transition Services provides a transition into post-secondary employment, college, or independent living skills "to promote an accessible society that allows and expects full participation by individuals with disabilities."

The program has proven to be very beneficial to these siblings. Carina announced, “As of January 9, 2024, I got accepted into the #2 animation school in the country, the Savannah College of Art & Design.” Nikolas said he'd been accepted into "one of the best liberal arts schools in the country."

Students are recommended by their case managers and approved by the State of Illinois. To be eligible, students need to have a documented disability with a IEP/504 and be enrolled in an education program for those 14-22 years of age. The student should have an interest in employment and independent living skills.

There is no cost to be in the program.

“Two out of five students take advantage of the program,” Fasula said.

“We provide support for our students and see success through these resources and newly developed skills. They are both going to college.”

Both students reflected on their experiences at the January school board meeting.

Carina said, “For the past three and a half years, I’ve learned so much with the help of the student support staff at the school. First off, I would like to take the opportunity to thank Mr. Fasula for taking his time to help me with difficult assignments from my classes. Having the extra help and time definitely helped me and my grades during the roughest parts of the school year.”

Carina added, “I would also like to thank Mrs. Blaser and Mrs. Gerard for allowing me to be a part of their girls group. Being a part of that group made me understand my own surroundings, to meet new people, and improve my own social skills and to better communicate with others. These people made me become more of a managed and honest person. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them.”

“The summer leadership program at RAMP has taught me a lot about what life being disabled is and to help me become a leader for a community.”

“Not only that, one of their representatives, Janna Stowers, the lead Fast Track specialist, taught me about how to live on my own while being disabled, as well as teaching me about what it’s like to have a job and the opportunities of having my condition. It was truly an eye-opening experience learning from RAMP and the point of views of other disabled people.”

“Mrs Blaser, Mrs Gerard, Mr Fasula, and the staff at RAMP have led me to this huge impact on my life, and I couldn’t be happier because of it.”

“My biggest take away is the leadership from Jana, [which] helped us a lot. She taught us how to be on your own with disabilities and how The Disabilities Act protects you,” Carina said.

“We even learned ways to do TurboTax.”

Nikolas shared, “Today, I will share my experience using Fast Track and visiting RAMP, and how it has affected my life.”

“This really opened up my eyes to seeing different perspectives, and seeing something new that I didn't understand myself. This was an opportunity to help and to support someone else. I learned the importance of the impact of these organizations in helping people.”

“We learned of resources within our own community through participation in this program.”

“Jana was a huge help with filling job applications, interviewing skills, and career planning. She also helped with creating resumes and applications, and I’ve been accepted to one of the best liberal arts schools in the country.”

“Without her help I wouldn’t have gotten this far. When I first arrived at RAMP to be a part of their leadership program, they gave us an introduction about their program and their goals. Over the course of the program, they showed us a film about the history of disabilities, which gave me a new understanding about the organization and the hardships people with disabilities have. We also had fun making posters for disability awareness.”

“I would like to give a shout out to Mr. Fasula and Mrs. Gerard, for their help and support over my time at Hononegah. I’ve known them over the past four years and they have been encouraging me every step of the way. Through difficulties in other classes, and personal issues, they helped me understand assignments, allowed me to eat in his class during lunch, and encouraged me to join clubs, where I was able to make decent friendships.”

“I was nervous about giving my speech, but wrote out parts of my own script about my own experience. Writing it out was easier than memorizing it,” Nikolas said.

“By being part of the leadership program, my sister and I were there and making a difference for others,” Nikolas said.

“We made care packages that we delivered to a shelter for domestic abuse, at the Hope Center,” Carina said. 

RAMP was formed in 1978 and is a nonprofit, non residential Center for Independent Living that emulates an independent piving philosophy with a mission to build an inclusive community, while encouraging individuals with disabilities to live up to their full potential.

Additional opportunities are available for learning through the Fast Track program.

Fasula said, “I am really excited to share this same experience with other students in the future. Speeches that were given had to be done in under two minutes. They both spoke from their heart and as a case manager I am very proud of these students.”

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