School of the Week: The Charles R. Drew Center!

The Charles R. Drew Center is a unique post-secondary vocational center for students who are Moderate and Severely Cognitively Impaired, Visually Impaired, Hearing Impaired, Physically Impaired, Otherwise Health Impaired, and students with Autism.

But anyone who visits Drew knows it’s so much more than that. The entire staff at Drew – from the principal, to the teachers to the parents, custodians and security – are all devoted to creating a nurturing space that has a laser-like focus on helping students learn valuable life skills that they can apply toward a successful life after Drew.

The Transition Center, which serves post-secondary special education students ages 18-26,  is a one-of-a-kind Center-Based educational facility that has created a continuum of services for students with disabilities to ensure students have access to an age-appropriate learning environment.

“We believe that the transition process is best experienced through authentic life training, and real world connections. Students are prepared for the world of work and to become productive citizens with the necessary skills that will increase their quality of life,” said Principal Robert Avedisian.

That philosophy has translated into an array of offerings for Drew’s students.

The Charles R. Drew Transition Center in 2011 unveiled a $5.2 million renovation that allowed DPS to improve services for the nearly 650 students who previously attended Detroit Transition Center East and Detroit Transition Center West.

The renovated school combines the best programs of DTC East and DTC West in a bright, well-equipped facility that features a Main Street retail promenade that includes a new wheelchair-accessible theater, laundry facility, beauty salon, retail clothing store, convenience store, gym and post office. Life-sized images of real banks and post offices and even the new Drew Store, along with benches and trees, add realism to the facades along Main Street.

“The Drew Transition Center is a great community resource in assisting families of students with disabilities to obtain access to organizations and agencies who are offering support services in the areas of education, healthcare, transition, and parent workshops,” said Celena Barnes, a DPS parent of a child with autism.  “When the families have accessibility to community resources, they will become a more involved parent in their child’s education.   Also, the Drew Transition Center has extensive parental involvement, where families and the staff coordinate many school activities together.”

In 2011, the school also teamed up with First Independence Bank to spread financial literacy into the classrooms, and to launch a student-run in-school bank.

The new banking program at Drew gives students the opportunity to open a savings account and participate in a savings program at the school. Students make deposits into saving accounts during school, but only make withdrawals at First Independence Bank when accompanied by a parent or guardian.  Students, who also staff the bank, work on a revolving schedule as tellers, assistant managers, branch managers and marketing personnel.

All students are individually assessed at the Transition Center, and instruction is delivered through a unique simulated work and living environment.  On-site counseling and related-agency support services are made available to students and parents daily.

“A Person Centered Plan” at the center emerges into a transition plan that is aligned with the student’s career pathway, daily schedule, and educational development plan.  Many of the transition students are able to display acquired skills successfully daily into the real-world of work environments. Transition students are currently placed within community businesses in Metro Detroit in various departments at Karmanos, Veterans Hospital, TJ Maxx, various auto repair shops, and Harold’s Place Hair Shop.  The school has a student-operated kitchen that is aggressively growing with previously-untapped student skills.

Students attending the transition center earn a certificate of completion. The goal is to provide students with skill training that will transfer to the real adult world. Students learn in a non-traditional classroom setting that promotes independent living and employability skills in real life environments.

In September 2012, Drew also opened a brand new One-Stop Support Shop to serve parents of students with special needs from any DPS school as part of its new Parent Resource Center at Drew Transition Center.

The One-Stop Support Shop kicked off with a free half-day event drawing parents from across the district who sampled the services that will be available year-round at the Center.

Click here to view a short video clip of the presentation:

The One Stop Support Shop, which is modeled on an integrated approach to servicing parents, will provide ongoing services from a variety of partners and service providers. Partners include Community Living Services, Detroit Parent Network, Alliance for Families, Michigan Rehabilitation Services, Neighborhood Service Organization, PsyGenics and Synergy Partners LLC.

“Being able to provide a wide array of information and support to our parents and those across DPS – all in one place – will positively impact them and their children,” Avedisian said. “We hope this innovative process will become an urban model that can be replicated locally and nationally based on how we service parents of students with special needs.”

Something You Didn’t Know…


Charles R. Drew Center has its own Flower Shop.

Students from Drew assemble the table arrangements for events at the school. On Sweetest Day, students assemble and sell roses for $1, learning valuable skills on how to run a business.

Drew students provide catering service served at the Charles Drew Grill. Delicious healthy nutritional meals are prepared daily.   The onsite Drew Barn has fresh produced vegetables grown, and harvested by our students.  The Drew Produce Barn helps to ensure that fresh produce is available and affordable in our community. Select the Drew Center for you next special event or meeting.  By getting involved in your local schools, you can help students take their first steps toward a healthy diet.

Catering available. For more information contact: 313-873-6880.

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with the subject line “School of the Week candidate.” 

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