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Discovery of self is particularly important for teens as they begin to look at the world beyond school and home. As students discover that their best is within them, students will become empowered and have confidence to face the world. This activity is designed to open a dialogue between teenagers, parents, and teachers in a non-threatening, fun, creative atmosphere. The "Take a Look at Me" portfolio, developed by IHDD (Institute on Human Development and Disability at the University of Georgia) is one tool that can be used to begin this process. Portfolios can be purchased at www.strengthsbased.com.

There is no need to wait until students reach high school to begin implementation. Students can create and maintain portfolios from elementary school through high school. The following steps used to implement the portfolios in the classroom are easily modified for any age level:
  • Use the portfolio as an avenue to allow dreams to be documented; however, make sure it is updated annually and parents are included in the process.
  • Incorporate self-determination lessons.
  • List likes and dislikes as students realistically pursue hopes and dreams.
  • Explore future educational options necessary to realize hopes and dreams, then have the student present those options at their IEP meeting.
Once students have created their portfolio, they are ready to take the first step toward Futures Planning and/or a Student Led IEP. By using the strengths-based portfolio, a student is empowered to share their thoughts and feelings, look inward to assess strengths and choices for the future, and then create a visual record of their likes, interests, and desires using words and pictures. When students hold their portfolios in their hand they are proud that they have accomplished something that not only defines them, but gives them hope for their future.

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