Southwest Cook County Cooperative
 Association for Special Education

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to Children and Young Adults with Diverse Abilities for over 50 years




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DESTINY Beats Winter Blues

DESTINY High School Para-educators beat the Winter Blues with a fun and collaborative team-building project with a Mardi Gras flare.  The staff members had a great time working together during this activity led by Theresa McCoy, School Social Worker. 

Front Row: Karin Murrin, Stacy DeCoster, Christina Kulinski, Diana Knaack,
Christine Hanley  Back row: Vivian Gonzalez, Melissa Castillo, Kristin Huie, Mallory Lyall,
Dawn Doherty, Lizzie Koneizny, Bonnie Everett, Angela Roser, Larissa Vanderleest, Linda Seeber and Connie Tutor.

Transition Spreads Love!

Thanks to Rosanne Calahan and Eileen Griffiths who headed a successful 3E Love fundraiser, which helped raise money for student activities while spreading the 3E Love message. 

January 20th has been deemed International Day of Acceptance and Transition will be wearing the 3E Love clothing to celebrate.  To learn more about the movement and company, please visit

Embrace diversity. Educate your community. Empower each other. Love life."
- 3E Love Founder, Annie Hopkins (1984-2009)

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. 


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

Kempke is DESTINY's +1

A big PLUS ONE goes out to
Karyn Kempke for accompanying the parent of one of her 8th grade students to visit potential high school placements.  Karyn's willingness to accompany the parent has helped to reduce the stress and anxiety that comes with a child transitioning from middle to high school and into a completely new program. 

Thank you, Karyn, for going above and beyond for our students and their families!

Gerhardt and Wegner Inspire Future Educators
Oak Forest High School Project Manager Mallory Platt announced today that the OFHS Guidance Department sponsored a presentation about teaching special education.

Featured speakers were Southwest Cook County Cooperative DESTINY program special education teachers Brianna Gerhard and Elizabeth Wegner, who teach in a special wing at Oak Forest High School.

Gerhard and Wegner told students what a typical day looks like in the special education program classroom.  Also, they discussed their likes and dislikes and challenges they faced in their profession.

Another topic of the presentation was the educational track they took to become special education teachers and what materials and technology they used daily in their jobs.  Brianna Gerhard said that the most common pieces of technology she uses daily in his classroom is an iPad.  Students use an app on the iPad that allows students who have difficulty verbalizing answers because they can press a button.

Also, Gerhard and Wegner discussed opportunities with the special education career field and related careers.

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!!


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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