Laker Transitions student appreciates next level learning opportunities in Becker County

Mother-daughter duo give kudos to Detroit Lakes School District

Kaitlyn Ahles and her mother Jodi recently shared their experiences with the Detroit Lakes School District, from elementary to high school to the Transitions program.
Barbie Porter / Detroit Lakes Tribune
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DETROIT LAKES — Kaitlyn Ahles wants to move to the Twin Cities and work for the Minnesota Vikings. Like most 19-year-olds with big league dreams, there are hurdles to jump and opportunities to tackle.

Because of the Laker Transitions program at Detroit Lakes High School, the daughter of Jodi and Paul Ahles is one step closer to her goal.

Ahles was born with Down syndrome, which develops when abnormal cell division occurs with chromosome number 21. She explained that the Transitions program has been beneficial for her, as it took her learning from the classroom into the real world. She is fine-tuning skills everyone must learn, such as housekeeping (dishes and laundry), creating a grocery list, money management and gaining work experience.

Ahles applauded the district for creating a new space for those in the Transitions program. The district used to offer Transitions classes at the high school; now, those in the program have a college-type atmosphere at a new location on West River Road in which to receive their education. There are hands-on labs where individualized training is provided in a variety of fields and skills.

This is Ahles’ second year in the Transitions program. She said the first year was focused on healthy lifestyles and housekeeping. This year, she is able to pick her classes. Her favorite is heading to the work lab, where she learns different skills that will boost her resume.


Currently, Ahles works at Pelican Landing, a retirement center. She started there in May and is an occupational therapist assistant. She noted when it comes to her future career, she wants to help others.

“I like doing that,” she said, adding she also likes data entry work and might settle for a desk job as long as she gets to meet Adam Thielen once or twice.

DL School District goes above and beyond for special education students

Before Ahles was born, her mom said, they learned in pre-birth that her baby would have Down syndrome. According to the Center for Disease Control, “Each year, about 6,000 babies born in the U.S. have Down syndrome. This means that Down syndrome occurs in about 1 in every 700 babies.”

Early on, Jodi Ahles said, getting services she needed for her daughter — and knowing what those services were — was an overwhelming task. When her daughter began classes with the Detroit Lakes School District, she felt blessed, because of the “excellent” support the district provided her family.

“They have great teachers, paraprofessionals, staff ... the district is great at providing resources and the support we need,” she said.

When she and her husband learned about the Transitions program, they were excited for the opportunities it offered their daughter so that she can be successful. Much like their early school district experiences, Ahles said the next level learning opportunity continues the tradition of excellence.

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