Frederick County Public Schools Awarded Project SEARCH Grant
The Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services has awarded Frederick County Public Schools a Project SEARCH Grant which will cover the cost associated with starting the program locally. The grant, awarded as part of a collaborative effort between Frederick County Public Schools, Winchester City Schools, the Virginia Department of Education and the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services, will enable Frederick County Public Schools to launch Project SEARCH in the 2017-18 school year. Project SEARCH is a nationally recognized career program that teaches high school students with disabilities competitive job skills and provides them with hands-on training that will lead to permanent employment.
Frederick County Public Schools Director of Special Instructional Services Michele Sandy says, “We are very excited to receive the grant which will enable us to offer Project SEARCH to high school seniors with special needs. The program will help students with intellectual disabilities, autism, multiple disabilities and other health impairments acquire the skills needed to maintain competitive employment as well as raise awareness about the positive contributions these students are capable of making in our community and the local economy.”
Schools Superintendent David Sovine says, “Frederick County Public Schools serves all students regardless of the challenges they may face and prepares them to become successful, engaged citizens. Project SEARCH will provide new opportunities to students with disabilities and help them make successful transitions from school to productive adult lives. This program is also likely to help facilitate a positive change in attitudes about hiring individuals with disabilities and the range of jobs in which they can be successful.”
The Virginia Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services started Project SEARCH during the 2009-10 academic year. Since that time, more than 600 students statewide have participated in the program. Typically, students enrolled in Project SEARCH are on an Individual Education Program and in their last year of high school eligibility. The most important criterion for acceptance into Project SEARCH is a desire to achieve competitive employment.
Students participating in Project SEARCH receive support from both a special education teacher and a job coach throughout the school year. The first few weeks of the program focus on orientation, a skill assessment and students becoming familiar with the business environment. The students also develop a career plan which helps guide them through the internship selection process and individualized job search. Throughout the school year, the students work on employability and functional skills. Classroom activities focus on a number of areas including team building, workplace safety, technology, social skills, communication, presentation skills, interviewing skills, money management, health and wellness, job search skills and job retention.
In addition to classroom instruction, students in Project SEARCH will complete three, 10-week internships that will assist them in acquiring competitive, marketable and transferable skills that may enable them to apply for a position related to their internships. This real-world experience also builds students’ communication, teamwork and problem-solving skills which are critical in today’s business world. During the final few months of the program, an emphasis is placed on refining skills, achieving a career goal and completing individualized job placement. Job development and placement occurs based on the student’s experiences, strengths and skills. During this stage of the program, connections with appropriate services in the community are identified in order to ensure the student receives the supports necessary for long-term success. Students satisfactorily completing the program also receive a Career Portfolio that generally contains a resume, letters of recommendation, a competency profile and any awards or special recognitions received while in the program.
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