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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Braun Students Help Raise Funds for
St. Jude's Children's Hospital

The freshman & sophomore students of classroom 201 participated in a service project to help raise money for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. During the winter holiday season, they created Reindeer Grams and sold them to the Braun/Project Challenge/Maintenance population. During the month of December, they worked hard creating an assortment of these grams, consisting of hot cocoa, various chocolate chips, and marshmallows. This was a huge hit! We had more demand than supplies and time. Families of students were sending in money to purchase these adorable grams and help raise money.

Advertising, team work, sales, money management, empathy, leadership, and emotional intelligence are some of the skills that were developed through this project. In total, we raised $134.00. We are so proud of all the hard work these students & staff exhibited!

Success In DHH

Many exciting achievements and activities have been happening in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program at Lemont High School. Students are preparing for the annual Deaf Volleyball Tournament which is held at Harper Community College in April. They enjoy the practices as much as the event. Other students are enjoying their participation in other sports such as swimming and track.

Yoga club is favorite amongst our students. Practically 100% of students in the DHH program at Lemont High School participate.

A huge congratulations to DHH Senior, Ryan G. for winning first place in his weight class at the South Suburban Wrestling Conference. Since he placed at regionals, he was able to attend the IHSAA State Wrestling Tournament. He was pleased with his performance and had a great experience. Ryan was also accepted in the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) and received the President’s Scholarship. Last but certainly not least, Ryan is also the proud recipient of the Illinois Teachers of Deaf / Hard of Hearing Individuals (ITHI) Jacki Marcus Scholarship award which is designed to offset tuition in post-secondary opportunities.

Lemont HS Senior, Ryan G.

We are proud to announce that Senior, Justin S. was also accepted into the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) for next year. Various staff members have been helpful throughout the application process and are proud of their students’ successes.

DHH Junior, Greg S. was chosen to be a student representative on the Student Advisory Committee with Lemont High School. Principal Eric Michaelson said that Eric is a “valuable member of the committee and has made a positive contribution to the group.”

Freshman, Jasmine D. received the Student Technology Achievement Award from Infinitec for using every technology resource available. She is an advocate for her needs and works diligently to succeed in her studies.

Lemont HS Freshman, Jasmine D.

Congratulations to all of our students on these fabulous achievements!

DHH Student Performs at Talent Show

DHH Program 8th grader, Faith, performed a solo at the Old Quarry Middle School talent show.  She did a beautiful job and was cheered on by her friends and family.

Faith expressed how brave and proud she felt about her performance in this essay:

Dawn Mayerak Presents at ISHA

Dawn Mayerak, MHS, SLP for the DHH program recently presented at the 55th Annual ISHA (Illinois Speech-Language-Hearing Association) conference.  The topic of her presentation was "Alphabet Soup: From Early Intervention (EI) to Early Childhood (EC) with the deaf/hard of hearing child.  She discussed how hearing loss requires children to have a structured intervention to build the necessary language foundation to succeed academically.  She reviewed and discussed skills that improve speaking, listening and language skills for children with hearing loss.  

Ms. Mayerak is a valued member of the DHH team and kudos to her for sharing her expertise with others!

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)


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

Let's Play!

A big DESTINY Plus 1 goes out to
Ms. Kelsey Broughton who was able to secure a very nice toy shelf for her classroom with a little extra effort. 
Ms. Broughton posted a request for such toy shelf on the website 

She had to submit a justification outlining why her students would greatly benefit from the shelf and how it would allow a more accessible environment for her learners. 

Ms. Broughtons proposal was sponsored with just two weeks left in its publication.  Great job Ms. Broughton!

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.


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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