Break begins early for local Transitions program students

Transitions program student Gabe Webb approaches a Mountain Valley Horse Rescue animal during the programs Ute Springs Experiential Learning Center field trip last week.
Pam Boyd/ |

For kids in the Eagle County Schools Transition to Life Program, the Thanksgiving Break actually started a day early when they trekked out of their classroom and over to the Ute Springs Experiential Learning Center up Bruce Creek.

The group, which included 10 students in the program and a number of paraprofessionals and Ute Springs staff, spent last Friday interacting with horses, completing a craft, participating in a scavenger hunt and finally enjoying some s’mores.

The Transition to Life program works with high school graduates, between the ages of 18 and 21, who have special needs. During those years, these students cannot qualify for state funding or care, so the school district created a bridge program to assist them until they have more support services.

Ute Springs Experiential Learning Center is a newly created program that addresses the need for social-emotional learning within our community. The program’s focus is to encourage increased self-awareness, social-awareness, self-management, responsible decision making and leadership skills while connecting to place through an adventure-based curriculum. The Transitions program engaged Ute Springs to help participants with communication skills for self-expression and self-advocacy and responsible decision making skills. The two programs are also working together to help the students gain access to and accomplish activities that require physical function in addition to participation in community service. Their first interaction happened last week, and judging by the enthusiasm displayed by the students, the approach was a success.

“A lot of these kids have never had any interaction with horses, ever, so it was a big shift to be in a ring interacting with one,” said Linda Minor from Ute Springs.

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She noted the students quickly learned that the horses would mirror the energy the humans displayed. Therefore if someone was overly timid when approaching an animal, the horse would respond with skittish behavior. Likewise a noisy approach would result in a rowdy horse.

“Everyone was really into the connections” said Minor.

The students were also into their s’mores as they toasted their marshmallows around the outdoor fire ring.

To learn more about Ute Springs visit the organization’s Facebook page or its website at

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