Transition spotlight: West Central grad thrives in new program

Ryan is smiling and sitting in front of a computer.

Not long after he hung up his cap and gown last year, Ryan Alimo headed off to a new day program. He had loved being at West Central School and was disappointed when the coronavirus pandemic stole some of his time there. Moving on – without his beloved teacher Miss Donna – was a big, slightly scary step.

But Ryan didn’t miss a beat. “He absolutely loves it,” his mom, Sheila Alimo, said of his activities at all R friends in Gahanna. “The staff is wonderful. Honestly, I don’t think he’s ever been happier.”

She said her son’s days are “nice and full,” with plenty of activities, new friends and opportunities to work on various skills. Though Ryan is ready for down time when he gets home, he’s always eager to go the next day. “Sometimes he’s not real happy on holidays or days they’re closed,” Alimo said.

Jill Hicks, transition resources specialist at West Central, said teachers and therapists work to prepare students and families for the shift to adult services, whether that means employment, a day program or job development.

“We help with the process, completing what we call a discovery profile that includes a student’s preferences, interests, needs and strengths,” Hicks said. “We can pass on their routine, what kind of schedule they’re on, activities they like. We have trial programs so they can see if the next program is a good fit. And then families decide what is best.”

Ryan, 23, said he likes working on computer skills at all R friends and enjoys the community outings, especially shopping and karaoke. And he hasn’t lost his devotion to his favorite movie. “Mamma Mia!,” he said. “I know all the words.”

He also thinks often of Donna Tracy, a West Central teaching assistant who retired last year after 40 years with FCBDD. “I had a dream and Miss Donna was in it,” Ryan said, smiling. “I love her.”