Transition Program Helps Student Grow his Business


Tanatswa Chivero

Lakota Fielder said he hopes the Transition Program will help him continue to grow his dog treats business.

Westside’s Transition Program assists special education students by helping them get ahead after high school. The program provides students with essential life skills to help them gain a smooth transition into post secondary and adult life. Mark Pokorny, a Transition Program instructor, said the program is differentiated for each student. 

“Every student has an individualized aspect to their program,” Pokorny said. “Some students have a greater need for daily living skill practice, and others have never had a pre-vocational opportunity before. Students’ programs also evolve over the years they are present in the program; it’s a bit like college in that regard.”

Senior Lakota Fielder will be going into the transition program, while also running his dog treats business. His business involves making his own dog treats and selling them. Fielder’s nurse, Jean Whitt, said the inspiration came from the unique circumstances caused by the pandemic. 

“Last summer, Lakota, and myself and his mom decided since we were doing more remote learning, that we could do something since he wasn’t getting some of his job skills to help him go into transition,” Whitt said. 

Fielder started making the dog treats after one of his dogs, Bella, had puppies and his mom wanted him to make treats for the puppies’ first birthday. 

“We just looked online and got some ideas of treats,” said Whitt.

Fielder and his nurse hope the Transition Program will help them grow their business throughout the district. 

“We’re hoping that when he goes into transition, the kids that are in the program will be able to help with his business and make the treats and maybe help deliver the treats,” Whitt said.  “Maybe even some day [we can] create a website.”

Fielder’s business started around August of 2020, and he has since created numerous flavors and shapes of his dog treats. 

“One flavor is grain free, [which is made with coconut flour], and there’s a regular one [which is made with whole wheat],” said Fielder. “They’re shaped like bones, [but on holidays like Easter], there are bunnies or flowers.”

Fielder said he wants to continue his business, and believes the program will help him continue to grow his job. 

Pokorny said he is proud of Fielder’s achievements and thinks everyone can learn a lesson from him.

“I am proud that Lakota has the belief in himself to start a business,” Pokorny said. “ Many people talk about something similar, but often do not carry out what they would need to accomplish [it]. Not just individuals with special needs can learn that lesson from Lakota. He should be an inspiration to anyone who is hoping to create something. Lakota has proven that he is capable of doing great things, but that comes as no surprise to anyone who has met him and taken the time to get to know how special of a young man he is.”