Eagle’s Trace Partnership With TOPS Has Deep Roots

Houston, TX—For Pat Osborne, opening doors for young adults with special needs was a passion during her tenure as a teacher and administrator with the Spring Branch Independent School District (ISD).
 
In 2002, she spearheaded the launch of the school district’s Transitioning On Promotes Success (TOPS) program.  Its aim was to provide life and work skills for these students in public high schools beyond their in-house curricula.
 
“It was terrific that the federal government passed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA) in 1975, but we really weren’t taking advantage of all the opportunities the platform provided,” noted Ms. Osborne, who now resides at Eagle’s Trace retirement community in West Houston.  “These students were taking drama, art and choir classes during high school through their twenty-first birthday.  While those courses are valuable, there was so much more potential to prepare these young men and women for life beyond school.”
 
Tasked by her supervisor to identify effective programs, Ms. Osborne traveled to places like Brownsville, where innovation was occurring.  
 
Upon her return, she created the TOPS program.  Her immediate goal was to partner with local businesses to provide off-site work experience for the students.  But she had limited resources: one classroom, one teacher and one aide.   
 
So Ms. Osborne literally hit the road…along the Katy Freeway corridor, where she searched for support.  
 
“Fortunately, willing participants who saw the value in the TOPS program stepped up to the plate.  We were so grateful to Cavender’s Boot City, the Hampton Inn and Goodwill Select for opening doors to our students,” recalled Ms. Osborne.
 
With a coach, the students learned how to prepare for work, travel to the job site, and perform assignments.
 
Besides the experience, the opportunity provided the students with a sense of purpose and self-worth.  “Seeing them thrive in a social setting was wonderful.  And the pride that their family members showed during special events let us know we were on to something good,” said Ms. Osborne.
 
Even though she retired in 2004, TOPS is still thriving with eight business partners in the Houston area.
 
Earlier this year, Ms. Osborne noticed that a Spring Branch ISD bus dropped off students at the clubhouse of Eagle’s Trace.  Much to her delight, she learned that six young adults from the program are working or volunteering at the retirement community.
 
As this July marks the 40th anniversary of the passage of EHA in Congress, the progress of TOPS warms the heart of Ms. Osborne.
 
“I am proud of the difference that programs like TOPS are making in the lives of special needs students and their families.  The mission is never complete, but the positive results are lasting.  It’s comforting to know that the next generation is taking the lead on this important work,” she said.
 
About Eagle’s Trace:  Eagle’s Trace is one of eighteen continuing care retirement communities managed by Erickson Living.  Located in Houston, Texas, the scenic 70-acre campus is home to more than 650 residents.  Eagle’s Trace is the ideal greater Houston retirement destination offering a true sense of community, convenience beyond compare and a sensible financial structure.