SPED Speeds towards New Mexico


Caroline Knight, Reporter

On March 11th through 13th, the Special Education Program (SPED) at Durango High School took their first overnight trip. For three days in Albuquerque, Adrian Sandoval, Reilly Coker, Nicholas Matthews, and David Brooks enjoyed a feeling of independence on the trip they planned and fundraised for themselves. It was a celebration for the seniors and what they’ve learned in their four years at DHS.

“The idea is as we grow it, we want it to be like a culminating project…they’ve been here freshman, sophomore, junior, senior year…so in terms of independent living, community access, [we took] them on a weekend trip to the city, to kind of demonstrate what they’ve learned,” said special education teacher Laura Lindstrom.

Students made the most of their trip, and their schedule was packed throughout the three day weekend. The group visited the Hinkle Family Fun Center (a family recreation spot with bumper cars, laser tag, and paintball), Dave and Buster’s, the Albuquerque Zoo, and went to Gravity Park Trampoline Arena. They got the opportunity to see a 3D printer, and frequented the hotel pool. Each student got something different out of the experience.

“My favorite part was the family fun center. I liked laser tag. We got to eat yummy food, eat pizza, and drink pepsi,” said Matthews.

This is the first time the students were  away from their families, and it gave them independence they’ve never had before. In fact, when asked if their parents would be joining, there rang a collective “No!”

To cover costs of the trip, the students started a GoFundMe page, a crowdfunding platform that allows people to raise money for personal causes. In addition, they sold candy during Valentine’s Day, and received donations from local businesses. Overall, they collected more than $1,500 through fundraising.

“CJ’s Diner and Durango Joe’s donated money,” said Coker.

The trip wouldn’t have been possible without the special education teachers, who encouraged their students to make Albuquerque a reality, as well as helped with logistics throughout.

“Laura and I got together, and we kind of have the same philosophy that we like to get out in the community, we like to have new experiences for the students. We like to try to do different things other than just be at school,” said special education teacher Tara Viosca.

The SPED program is no stranger to getting out in the community. As a group, they try and go out about once a week to do activities such as grocery shopping or volunteering at the human society. The students can be seen at school events supporting their peers, and this year they participated in a field hockey tournament at the Durango Rec Center.

Students also get out individually through work and extracurriculars. Coker competes in special olympics basketball, Matthews works at the Durango Allen Movie Theatres, the Durango Rec Center, and the coffee cart, and Sandoval works three nights a week.

“I work at Zia North, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday,” said Sandoval.

SPED has seen the community’s and school’s support in not only getting the seniors to Albuquerque but in all their activities.

“I think it’s great the opportunities that we’re able to provide for students, to be able to get out into the community and to focus on and help their independent living skills. I think it’s really great,” said Lindstrom.