Southwest Cook County Cooperative
 Association for Special Education

Opening the World Through Education
to Children and Young Adults with Diverse Abilities for over 50 years




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CD and DESTINY Host Annual Holiday Program

The Destiny and CD programs hosted their annual holiday program at Kerkstra Elementary School. It was special afternoon for our students. The Destiny and CD children sang and danced to various holiday songs, like Jingle Bell Rock and The Reindeer Pokey.  

We had great turn out. Many families and community members were able to join in our festivities. We are grateful for all the efforts from the Cooperative staff members in their planning and preparations for today’s event. We wish everyone a happy holiday season and a restful break.

DESTINY Holiday Drive 2014

The DESTINY Holiday Drive has been another great success this school year!  12 families are benefitting from the generosity of the DESTINY staff members and the UCP Holiday Drive.  Staff members purchased clothing, toys and food items to assist these families during the holiday season. 

Grocery gift cards were also distributed to several families.  A big THANK YOU goes out to Theresa McCoy and Debby Tengerstrom for their extra efforts in organizing and facilitating this exciting endeavor!

Braun Staff and Students Observe
Anti-bullying Week

Braun students and staff are observing Anti-bullying Week by participating in several activities.  The theme for anti-bullying week is: "Don't stand by! Stand up. Stand strong. Stand together." As a school, we will all “stand up to bullying” by wearing orange on Wednesday, October 22nd.

All students and staff will receive orange shoe pins to wear during the week. Each student and staff member will also decorate a shoe to represent their stance against bullying. We will then create an all-school mural which will include our theme and shoes. Throughout the week, students will view lessons that illustrate various situations and strategies to “Stand up against bullying”.

Mission Possible = A Model Classroom

The Illinois Service Resource Center has initiated a Model Classroom program that provides an opportunity for educators to be recognized for their implementation of effective strategies. Recognition is awarded to classrooms that exhibit exemplary use of evidence based behavioral support practices for students who are deaf and hard of hearing. Educators who meet the criteria for Model Classroom Status are more likely to be prepared and effective teachers and are more likely to competently implement effective interventions.

Recognition of Model Classroom Status is available in seven categories: 1) Classroom Expectations, 2) Structure and Routine, 3) Active Engagement, 4) Response to Behavior, 5) Positive Reinforcement Practices, 6) Data for Decision Making, and 7) Teacher and Support Staff Supervision of Environment.

Congratulations to our very own  educational team, Kathleen Durkin-Mirabella (teacher)Maureen O’Brien (social worker) and 
Dawn Mayerak
 (SLP).  The team has achieved Model Classroom Status in four categories: Classroom Expectations, Response to Behavior, Teacher and Support Staff Supervision of Environment, and Structure and Routine.

Dawn Mayerak, Kathleen Durkin-Mirabella, and Maureen O’Brien of Southwest Cooperative achieved ISRC Model Classroom status in four categories.

Braun Staff Brave Weather to Participate in Bullying Stops Here Walk

Braun staff braved the cold weather and flurries to Stop Bullying Here! On October 4th, Julie Beasland, Colleen Geary,
Rhonda O'Connor, and Laura Lesniak participated in the Bullying Stops Here Community Walk in Orland Park, sponsored by Whole Foods in support of the Bridge Teen Center.

The Bridge Teen Center is proactively combating everyday acts of bullying by offering a safe and supportive space for students not just to be, but to become. As part of the Expressive Arts programing the Bridge provides, Art Therapist, Melissa Ferriter hosted an interactive art installation as part of the walk experience which was inspired by a project completed by Julie Beasland's Junior class last year.

The art piece helped walkers to identify how a person who is bullied feels alone and empty inside. Each walk participant had the opportunity to fill up empty human sculptures with colorful words of encouragement. 


Braun Students' Art on Display in CA

Braun's 4th and 5th grade art therapy work is currently on display in Los Angeles, California at UglyCon 2014! Inspired by a student's love for Ugly Dolls, Ms. Ferriter helped students make a their own version of an ugly-buddy to teach lessons on self acceptance, bullying awareness, and noticing that it's what's on the inside of friends that counts. Each student in Ms. Mitchell's class hand stitched a plush buddy to take home back in October.

Then in May the class answered an open call to make fan art for UglyCon 2014 by sewing a second Ugly Doll to send off the the convention to celebrate IceBat's 10th birthday. With help from Ms. Mazan, Ms. Mitchell and Ms. Ferriter, the students again demonstrated their sewing skills and shipped their creations off to California for the grand opening on June 21, 2014. Braun's photos were posted in the UglyCon Facebook fan page and generated a number of positive comments from all over the U.S. Even David Horvath, creator of the UglyDoll commented, "IceBat x 1000, made my day!"  The display is at Giant Robot Gallery and runs through July 9th. Congratulations Braun's 4th and 5th grade students!



Please join us in celebrating some of our staff members who have demonstrated one extra degree of effort to achieve results:

Gerhard Takes on Homebound Student

A big "Plus 1" recognition goes out to the DESTINY Program's newest special education teacher, Ms. Brianna Gerhard.  Ms. Gerhard has taken on the Homebound Teacher role for one of our students throughout the Winter months. 

Because of Ms. Gerhard's dedication to the success of our DESTINY students,  this student will receive high quality instruction even though the weather prevents her from attending school. Thank you Ms. Gerhard for your care, commitment and willingness to give of your afterschool time!

Hazelett Helps Blind Student
Participate in Sign Language Club

Matthew Hazelett, an interpreter for the Transition Program was recognized for going the extra degree. Matthew runs the sign language club on Friday afternoons for students. He took great strides and really thought outside the box to make sure a student that is blind was able to participate.

Matthew ensured the student was included in the activities planned and even had adapted materials created for her.  He even reached out to Melissa Ferriter, the Cooperative's art therapist, and commissioned a student to make hand sculptures out of clay representing the common hand positions in sign language for the student to feel.


DESTINY Staff Dashes for Gigi's Playhouse

On October 5th, 16 members of team DESTINY Dashers participated in the 1st Annual Gigi's Playhouse Dash for Down Syndrome. The team was made up of Southwest Cooperative employees, friends and family.  Together we raised $1,090.00 for Gigi's Playhouse Oak Forest (soon to be Gigi's Playhouse Tinley Park). In total, all walkers earned $50,973.00 to support Gigi's!! Gigi's Playhouse provides educational and therapeutic programs free of charge to individuals with Down Syndrome and their families who live in the south suburbs of Chicago. 

DESTINY Dashers (Southwest Cooperative employees) to be recognized:
Karyn Kempke (Team Coach), Cathy Pekoz, Claudia Cuzco, Carol Vitkauskas,
Kelsey Broughton, Erin McKee, Donna Ebbens, Kristin Huie, Debbie Swalec, Sharon Thoma, Lynn Knight-Cody and Brandon Wigboldy.


McKee Adds Degree of Effort by Providing Homebound Instruction

The first DESTINY Plus 1 of this school year goes out to Erin McKee.  Erin has agreed to take on the extra duty of homebound instruction for a student who will soon be a new student in the DESTINY Program. 












Although this student is not yet medically able to attend school, Ms. McKee has offered her services of homebound instruction after her school day until he is able to come to school.  Thank you, Ms. McKee for going above and beyond!  Your student is going to benefit from your extra efforts before he even rolls through your classroom door!!

Nurse Debby Goes The Extra Dial!

Nurse Debby Tengerstrom worked a full summer day calling the parents of all 22 new DESTINY ESY students. Not only did she reach most of them. She took the rest home with her to try again later.  Thank you, Nurse Debby!

DESTINY Elementary Staff Present at
Gigi's Playhouse

A big Plus One goes out to a few DESTINY Elementary staff members who gave of their time to present an evening "Toilet Training Panel" to parents at Gigi's Playhouse on Wednesday, May 7th. Thank you to
Beth Sullivan, Kelsey Broughton,
Erin McKee, and Nurse Debby Tengerstrom! Each participant brought in resources, stories and "tips n tricks" to share with the parents in attendance. 

The evening was very successful with many parents gaining some new ideas or things to think about related to toilet training their children with special needs. Gigi's Playhouse is a Down Syndrome achievement center, and it offers both recreational and skills-development opportunities for children with Down Syndrome and their families. Gigi's Playhouse is located at 5400 W. 159th Street, Oak Forest in the lower level of a former church building. The website is  


Click the links below to visit a program web page:

Braun Educational Center
Communication Development
Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS)
Project Challenge
Transitional Employment Program
Vision and O&M Services


A Message from the Director



Southwest Cooperative provides services for eleven public school districts:

113a Lemont

117 North Palos

118 Palos

142 Forest Ridge

145 Arbor Park

146 Tinley Park

159 Matteson

160 Country Club Hills

210 Lemont High School

228 Bremen Community High School

230 Consolidated High School


Southwest Cook County Cooperative Association for Special Education
6020 W. 151st Street  | Oak Forest, IL 60452
(Telephone) 708-687-0900 | (TTY) 708-687-2151
(Fax) 708-687-5695

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