Ignite, a program of Search Inc, is an innovative, small and flexible licensed Adult Learning Program designed to help individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities pursue and achieve their personal goals and actively participate in community life. Ignite offers a dynamic mix of classroom instruction, individual supports, and community-based experiences.
Ignite goes out into the community at least three times a week to explore, learn and volunteer. Below is a short Q&A with Ignite participants, Becky, Henry, John, Pam, Erich, Nazim, and Bryan, to learn more about their community-based experiences:
Q: How do you prepare ahead to make an outing go smoothly?
Ignite Team: Mondays are our planning days. At the beginning of each week we discuss where we want to go. Everybody gets a say. Then we vote on the choices. If we will be taking public transportation, we check the train and bus schedules. We also check the weather forecast to make sure it won’t be too hot or too cold or too rainy.
On the actual days we go out there are lots of things we do to get ready:
- We have to stop what we are doing
- Turn off computers and plug them in to charge
- Clean up our work spaces
- Wash any dishes we may have used
- Use the bathroom
- Pack up our personal belongings
- Grab our lunches if we haven’t eaten
Q: What skills do you think you are learning/reinforcing by preparing for outings?
Ignite Team: We are practicing lots of different skills when we prepare to go out into the community:
- Self-organization – We have to make sure we have what we need before we leave
- Communication – We talk about where to go out in the community
- Technology – We use Chromebooks and smart phones to map our trips
- Self-advocacy – Everyone gets a say in where s/he wants to go
- Judgment – Sometimes we cancel trips because of the weather
- Personal responsibility – We need to bring the things we need and are in charge of them
Q: What kinds of places do you visit on your community outings?
Ignite Team: We go all over the place. We visit museums, such as The Toby Jug Museum, The Money Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Adler Planetarium, The Art Institute, National Museum of Mexican Art and the Block Museum; cafes, such as Cupitol, The Other Brother Coffee House, Collectivo and The Berry Pike Cafe; restaurants, such as the Nigerian Kitchen; shops; tourist places, such as Navy Pier; zoos, police stations, grocery stores, and parks and nature centers in Evanston and Chicago, such as the Botanic Gardens and Garfield Conservatory. And on Fridays we volunteer at Habitat for Humanity.
Q: What has been your favorite place you’ve gone? Why?
Becky: My favorite places we visited were the Taste of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Cupitol, Garfield Conservatory, a Nigerian restaurant, and the rose garden and Evanston Police Department because they all were so interesting to me.
Henry: I like going to museums the best because I like to see old school stuff from the 80’s and 90’s. My favorite museum is the Museum of Science and Industry.
John: My hotspot is Navy Pier because it’s on the Lake. I like being near water.
Erich: I like volunteering.
Nazim: The Art Institute.
Bryan: Garfield Conservatory.
Pam: My favorite places to go are cafes and restaurants. I really liked going to Nigerian Kitchen because I got to try new food.
Maria: I like going to the movies because I like seeing movies when they first come out.
Q: How do you typically get to places?
Ignite Team: We usually take the CTA purple and red lines downtown. And we walk when we are going somewhere in Evanston. We take a Search van when we volunteer at Habitat.
Q: Do you prefer riding public transportation, walking, or riding in the van? Why?
Ignite Team: Some of us prefer taking the van because it’s faster and the view is better. But most of us prefer the train because it’s more fun and interesting with all of the different people. It also helps us learn the system better.
Q: What is something you have learned through community outings?
Henry: I understand the CTA system better and learned how to get around.
Erich: How to assemble things at Habitat.
Pam: I am learning to be a better self-advocate; to speak up for myself. I have learned to be more patient and how to work as a team. I also learned that I like different foods!
Maria: I learned how to get around safely. With the different modules I learned about Japan and maps of different countries. I learned about Geography.
Becky: I have learned better social skills and how to navigate getting around. I also learned that you can use debit cards for buying tickets at the Taste of Chicago.
Nazim: How to make art for art shows.
Bryan: Safety tips.
John: I learned to deal with crowds and different people on the trains and how to work as a group. I also learn a lot of things from the modules, about my rights, science, how to be responsible, and how to help people out in different ways.
Q: What is your favorite thing about Ignite?
John: Everything. We’re all friends here. I like being with my friends. I have made a lot of friends.
Becky: Outings and hanging out with my friends. Even having fun riding on the train to outings.
Henry: The staff. Monica is nice and helpful. I also like that Ignite is close to my work.
Pam: I like all that we have a lot of good experiences.
Erich: Using Chromebooks.
Nazim: Getting volunteer experience and riding trains.
Bryan: I like the train and singing in the van. I also like volunteering.
Search’s Ignite pilot program in Evanston has been a huge success. So much so, that Search will be opening another Ignite location in Norwood Park, Chicago! For more information about Ignite and other programs offered by Search, contact Jess Dentzer at firstname.lastname@example.org.