Next Steps at Vanderbilt students learn and practice independent living and self-determination skills in small groups and individually on and off campus through required program courses and experiential learning with staff, Ambassadores, and friends. A description of courses taught by Next Steps at Vanderbilt staff and Vanderbilt graduate students can be viewed here. In addition to this structured coursework, staff members provide many opportunities and activities for students to put these skills into practice.
The Next Steps at Vanderbilt program facilitates many independent living activities in the Next Steps’ apartment, located in a complex immediately adjacent to campus. Students practice cooking meals in the kitchen and share weekly cleaning duties throughout the apartment. Students also have access to this apartment throughout the week for unstructured leisure time.
To encourage healthy eating, Next Steps at Vanderbilt partners with the Vanderbilt Medical Center HEAL (Healthy Eating Active Living) dietetic intern program. The HEAL coaches work with students to set personal health goals and to monitor their progress through the students’ weekly food logs.
Students navigate the Vanderbilt campus independently on a daily basis. They also receive travel training in order to use public transportation among training, internship, and work sites, as well as during programmatic community activities.
With the help of their Ambassadores, students apply the skills taught in Next Steps’ classes throughout daily activities. During lunch, Ambassadores encourage healthy eating choices and proper budgeting, and help students stay organized with a daily planner.