Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara

The Transition Readiness to Employment in the Community (TREC) program originated in the summer of 2009 as the result of a partnership between Niagara University and Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara.

The curriculum focuses on specific life skills with instruction taking place on the NU campus over two consecutive semesters. Semester one focuses on job readiness skills, technology and literacy development, while the second semester focuses on self-advocacy and character development. The participants from Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara are trained on the use of iPads and other technology, explore real-world job expectations and learn to become a self advocate to available resources.

Graduate assistants in the College of Education coordinate the program and serve as instructors for the first hour. For the second hour, participants from Opportunities Unlimited join Dr. Alice Kozen, associate professor of special education, and her graduate-level teacher candidates in studying the characteristics of students with special needs. Participants are also able to work alongside NU graduate teacher candidates in whole group, small group, and one-on-one settings during the second hour. Activities are aligned to reinforce skills and concepts learned in the first hour.


The entire OU1 experience has been one of my most fulfilling to date – not only at NU but in my life. It has made me recognize and appreciate the smaller things in life and just how fortunate I have been. Clark, 2014

This experience has done a lot for me. It has taught me that sometimes all it takes is a little patience to get the job done and it may be that the job isn’t going to look as good as you wished it would, but you know that it is their best. At the end of the day, that is what matters. Also, judging a person on what they can’t do is a waste of time; instead look at what they can do.  Joshua, 2014

I have discovered as a teacher that I really can see the potential in a student to help develop their strengths into complementing their weaknesses. That has been my philosophy as a teacher, to look for potential and make it grow, and I think I have started to uncover and invest in this philosophy through my experience with everyone. I am grateful to have had this opportunity and I only wish it was longer. Nicole, 2014

The experience I had working with the Opportunities Unlimited companions was a memorable one. I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to work with the OU individuals and learn so much from all of them. Julianna, 2014

The experience has provided me with the unique opportunity to work with individuals whose specific needs require specific assistance and this has provided me with a positive experience that I will carry in my teaching for the rest of my career. Lastly, it has provided me with the opportunity to meet some wonderful individuals who have proven there should never be a limitation to what one can do. Piero, 2014

The experiences that my candidates participate in with the individuals from Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara afford so many realistic and engaging opportunities for them, now and in their future. The words they read in their textbooks just simply cannot come close. Being able to observe my candidates’ growth as they transition from student candidate to teacher candidate through their weekly interactions is more than extraordinary and I am so lucky to be part of this metamorphosis. Dr. Kozen, 2014