Penny’s PATH Process: Planning for Life After High School

Once a year, a group of people from Penny’s school, family, and community gather together with her to talk about her hopes and dreams for the future through a process called a PATH. On a pragmatic level, this process allows us to think about what needs to happen now in order for Penny to live with roommates and hold a job in the future. But on a more abstract level, this time is a gift of encouragement that invites us to believe we aren’t alone and that her presence in the world matters. 

Here’s how it works: Penny’s school hires a consultant to guide a conversation about her goals and dreams for life. A group of friends, family, and people who care about Penny (her guidance counselor from school, youth minister from church, etc.) gather with Penny and the PATH leader to dream and plan together.

This time, we talked about Penny’s accomplishments from the past year. We checked in on last year’s plan. We talked about a vision for post-high school. And then we created an action plan for the upcoming year. For example:

  • Penny, Peter, and I will meet with the director of special education to start thinking about what happens after her senior year.
  • Penny and her dad will take a trip to New York City so she can start learning how to use public transportation.
  • We will work on independent living skills like cooking and doing laundry from start to finish. 

The plan itself is great. It holds us accountable and breaks big goals into manageable action items. But more importantly, it reminds us that we aren’t alone in believing Penny belongs in our society. We aren’t alone in believing that she has a meaningful role to play in her community. We aren’t alone in wanting her particular gifts and abilities to be present in the world. 

Penny is not alone in becoming a beautiful, gifted, vibrant young woman.


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