Jacob – Class of 2018

What was your school experience like before AOWL?

At my other school, the teachers didn’t understand how to teach me. So I got bored in my classes and messed around a lot. I had a couple of friends that stuck with me. It was a difficult situation. I didn’t understand social cues and situations. My other school got so bad that my mom was homeschooling me and researching other schools.

What was different about this school from your old school?

AOWL had smaller students in each class. All my teachers at AOWL knew how to teach me and I got to know them as teachers, but also people that would listen to my concerns and help me whenever I needed it.

What are the things that you liked?

I enjoyed my classes with Mr.Mike, Ms.Sarah and Ms.Kelsey. I got to know about Mr.Mike, Mr.Greg, and Mr.Paul. They taught me in my classes and also helped me become more independent.

What are the highlights from your time at the school?

The school carnival where I got to throw whipped cream at the teacher’s faces. Also, I participated in flag football, basketball, and track & field. 

What are you up to now? 

I’m starting my second year at Eden Prairie Transitions. I’m also starting my 3rd semester in Outdoor Motorsports and Marine Repair. I’ve been at my current job at Kwik Trip for a little over a year. 

I miss the friends I made at AOWL. I still keep in touch with my friends from AOWL. I go bowling and to the movies with them. They are my life long friends.

How did AOWL help set you up for the success you are experiencing now?

The social skills were the most important. I can walk into a classroom with no worries about talking to people. I’ve become more independent with tasks and no longer rely on friends to be around me at all times.


Gaby – Class of 2016

What was your school experience like before AOWL?

Before AOWL, I didn’t have any close friends because it was very hard for me to socialize and make connections, which made me very sad and lonely. I didn’t get invited to many social activities for fun and that was hard. My mom noticed I was lonely and that I needed new social opportunities with kids that I could connect with and she started to look for schools that could help me. She then found AOWL. I remember the day I first came to AOWL for a tour. I met the nicest kids, teachers, and staff.

What was different about this school from your old school?

I felt very welcomed, happy, and that I could finally make a connection. There was also a good learning environment at AOWL because at my old school I would work in a classroom with a bunch of kids and a para next to me which didn’t make me feel good or independent. The difference between both schools is that AOWL met my needs by having quiet classrooms and I was learning at the level I needed to learn at instead of sitting in a big classroom with a para. I know I needed support but I also wanted to be independent. I ended up beginning at AOWL in 2010. 

What are the things that you liked?

I started to make great friends over the years and have great connections. I started getting invited to fun activities and for the first time I started to feel accepted and fit in. I have the most amazing friends who have been so good to me and taught me how to make my social skills better and how to deal with conflict in a positive way. 

The things I liked the most at AOWL were the students, families, teachers, field trips, and the social experiences. All that made me feel wanted, accepted and that I could learn. This all helped me become more independent. I started helping more out at home, understanding routines and doing things more for myself and I felt happy.

What are the highlights from your time at the school?

Some of my highlights from my time at AOWL were Baker Near Wilderness. We had a campfire, we were all together and we all had fun. I also liked being on the AOWL basketball team because I got to play with my friends and being on the team made me feel happy. Another highlight was the school dances were we got to dance and have fun together. 

What are you up to now? 

Right now I’m in a great place in my life. I attend Minnesota Independent Community College and I just completed my first year. I’m learning how to cook, clean and be independent. I have many friends and a lot of them were made at AOWL. I spent my time in the summer volunteering at the Westonka food shelf and at AOWL. I’m looking forward to my second year at MICC where I will be studying and learning about health services. Every day I’m learning new things and new experiences and I’m grateful for the people who have helped me get to this place.

How did AOWL help set you up for the success you are experiencing now?

The teachers and staff have made a difference in my learning because they gave me the tools I needed to learn. They gave me the small group instruction and they were very patient. They taught me social skills and life skills. That helped me become independent and I felt successful with my learning.


Peter – Class of 2014

What was your school experience like before AOWL?

    • They were really fast-paced.
    • It was hard to move that fast. 

What was different about AOWL from your old school?

    • I would go to the resource room for an hour a week.
    • At AOWL the teachers (Ms. Dana, Ms. Catherine, Ms. Rachel) were really helpful.

What are highlights from your time at AOWL?

    • Special Olympics Basketball, especially the tournaments.
    • The Formal Dances, we got to dress up.
    • Baker Near Wilderness – there were places to watch all the birds and spend time outside.

What are you up to now? 

    • I graduated from MICC.
    • I am working as a cashier and stocking counters.
    • I am living on my own in an apartment.
    • I work-out. I just got 5th place in a 5k!
    • I go to social outings with friends.

Fun facts:

    • My go-to at Taco Bell used to be the crunch wrap supreme before they got rid of it.
    • 7,000 transactions come through the building I work at every day.
    • My Eagle Scout project was alphabetizing the library at AOWL.

Peter’s first day of school at AOWL and a current photo. Look at how far he has come!