She dreams of holding a job, living independently, enjoying family and friends, and contributing to the community.
"I'm attached to school, but I want to learn about being independent," Laing said recently while shopping with friends Bea Scot and Becky Saathoff.
Laing, 20, is among a dozen students, ages18 to 21, who have a moderate to severe cognitive disability. She and her classmates are in the Lawrence school district's Community Transition Program, or C-Tran.
"We've developed a program that places importance on functional skills," said Llara Baska, C-Tran co-director.
Students report daily to a donated duplex on California Street rather than to Free State High School or LHS. In this residential environment, each student receives individual instruction on independent living, employment, social and recreational activities and life-long learning. They delve into shopping, sex education, cooking, roommates, mass transit, personal finance and dozens of other topics.
"We're really big on natural consequences," Baska said. "If a student runs out of a money, they've got to give up something that week."
Without C-Tran, Laing and the other students would have no choice but to repeat high school courses if they remained in school past their senior years as allowed by federal law.
Many of the students work part-time jobs while in the program.
C-Tran is still something of a novelty in Kansas. It's offered in only three Kansas school districts -- Blue Valley, Olathe and Lawrence. The program started in Lawrence four years ago.
"We'll have five students finish in May," Baska said. "We're proud of each of them. Then, next year, we'll add five more. They'll all be different, with different aspirations."
-- Staff writer Tim Carpenter can be reached at 832-7155.