Carthage EXSS students swimming with STEP students in the pool.
All Stories

Carthage exercise and sport science (EXSS) students in the Adapted Physical Education course are given real-world teaching experience by partnering with the Kenosha Unified School District to provide aid for 18- to 21-year-old students with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities.

EXSS students in the course get to lead weekly classes for students in the district’s Successful Transitions for Exceptional People (STEP) program. They form meaningful relationships while delivering educational programs in fitness, dance, rock climbing, aquatics, and physical education.

“The STEP program has been an eye-opening experience during my time at Carthage and has been one of my most impactful memories,” says Peyton Quillin ’23, an EXSS major and secondary education minor in the Adapted Physical Education course. “I always look forward to the days we get to work with the STEP students, and I feel so lucky to be given the opportunity to work with such an amazing group of people.”

Professor Shelly Johnston believes the partnership benefits both organizations.

“This is a great opportunity for the STEP students to get out into the community,” says Prof. Johnston. “Plus, the program offers Carthage’s future teachers real-world experience working with students with special needs.”

STEP students running in the pool.

The collaboration began several years ago when Prof. Johnston taught special education PE for Kenosha Unified. After taking a position as an EXSS professor at Carthage, she kept the connection with the STEP program and began the collaboration between the two organizations.

“Both the Carthage students and the STEP students are roughly the same age, so it’s an interesting opportunity for college students to be able to provide aid for fellow high school graduates with disabilities,” says Prof. Johnston.

STEP Program principal Stacy Guckenberger is passionate about the collaboration between KUSD and Carthage and the aid it provides the students.

“The STEP program was the missing piece in KUSD for students in a transition phase, and Carthage has been instrumental in its success,” says Ms. Guckenberger. “We’re always tweaking the program’s processes to ensure that when our students turn 21 and graduate from the program, they’re prepared for the next step.”

Carthage and STEP students waving from the pool.

The future is bright for the collaboration between Carthage and STEP, and both organizations hope the partnership continues for many years to come.

“One thing I’ve taken away from the partnership is the energy you put out is the energy you are going to receive,” says Peyton. “I’m sad I won’t be able to work with these students once I graduate, but working with the STEP program has made me even more excited about my future career teaching physical education.”