Jackson disabled students to gain job help

Saturday, April 26, 2003

Jackson High School officials unveiled plans Friday for a new program that they feel will help prepare special-needs students for employment after high school.

Special services teacher Pamela Deneke outlined the idea of the Supervised Work Experience Program in front of a few dozen businesspeople at the Jackson Chamber of Commerce quarterly breakfast.

"It's much more than mentoring," Deneke said.

The program is designed to help students who have good attendance and attitudes but, because of their disabilities, do not possess the skills to write resumes or interview well.

The school would teach those types of skills, help students gain some experience in community service, then assist them with finding a part-time job in the final semester of students' senior years. Deneke would provide supervision -- at or away from the work site -- and follow-up training if the student didn't catch on.

After graduation, the employer -- if satisfied with the work of the student -- would be expected to keep the student employed full time with a full year of assistance by Deneke. The employer would be subsidized for 150 hours of work after the student's graduation.

The high school is still waiting for grant approval from the Missouri Mentoring program, but officials are confident they will get the necessary funds.

Deneke said 35 percent of Jackson's graduates with special needs had no gainful, meaningful employment one year after graduation.This percentage takes into account 2001 and 2002 graduates."This was devastating to the department because we do a good job in academics," she said.

Deneke said students with behavioral disorders will not be included in the program.

Only 10 students will be involved in the program, which will likely begin next school year.

"These kids weren't getting the chance to prove themselves," said high school principal Rick McClard.

Chamber executive director Ken Parrett said the idea is a winning combination.

"It's like you get two for the price of one," he said. "Not only do you get the student, but Pam, too. It can only be a help to the community and to business owners."



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