As executive director of Oak Hill Academy for more than 30 years, Park Cities resident Pam Quarterman has seen first-hand the struggles children with special needs encounter after they graduate high school.
(ABOVE: Students spend time in the community room at Segue Center. Courtesy Oak Hill Academy)
“They get their diploma, and then it’s almost like, ‘What now?’” she said.
Enter: Segue Center – a sort of in-between haven for those that may need just a little extra help.
Run by Quarterman and her daughter, Segue Center is a nonprofit center geared to assist local high school grads with special needs like autism, ADHD, anxiety issues, social challenges, and other learning differences as they transition into adult life. Grads can also go to Segue for academic tutoring and social skill practice.
Quarterman said Segue is also beginning to use research-based data to help these students identify a career, and Segue provides prospective and current employers a place to connect if they have questions about hiring the attendees.
“Many still struggle with social and life skills after they graduate, so we want to help them with practical things.” -Pam Quarterman
“Many still struggle with social and life skills after they graduate, so we want to help them with practical things,” Quarterman said. “How to do a budget, pay taxes, what kind of salary to aim for – practical things that others might take for granted.”
More than anything, she said, Segue is a place for community – where those that may feel different can spend time with others in a safe space.
“I really just wanted everyone to have a place where they can hang out and be social together,” Quarterman said. “I noticed that many of our Oak Hill graduates retreat back to the house, with their families, and may lose touch with outside interaction.”
Quarterman said board games are a favorite, and the groups will also go out to eat and visit museums.
Around 10 grads attend Segue regularly, but Quarterman and her daughter hope to expand their staff when more students take part in the center’s programs. That should happen sooner rather than later; In fact, the Moody YMCA has begun sending volunteers to Segue to conduct health and fitness classes for the growing community.
Quarterman and her husband, who have raised all four of their children in Highland Park, know how important being a part of a community is. The values one can learn from being involved with others is the core principle of Segue.
“We just want these grads to be a part of the community and be able to have and further relationships,” she said. “I’m hoping this place becomes a model for the rest of the country, honestly. There are a lot of programs out there, but I think we are addressing a need for a group of individuals that aren’t really being addressed.”
For more information, visit seguecenter.org.