The past two weeks I have been telling you about Bona Vista’s WorkForce Diversity program and how amazing it is at matching adults with disabilities with employers who need dependable workers. This week will only be slightly different in that I’m throwing a plot twist your way! We don’t just help people 18-years-old and older find employment. We also help high school students!
The Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) program is designed to assist high school students in preparing for life after school. The new Pre-ETS program allows agencies like Bona Vista and Carey Services to help students at a very important point in their lives. These students will soon face the challenge of transitioning from the school life they have always known to an adult life full of new opportunities and challenges. And, those are opportunities that most people without disabilities take for granted.
Thanks to a grant from the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services (BRS) the North Central Collaborative is able to go into high schools, meet with students (ages 14-22) with Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and start them on the right track for after graduation through the Pre-ETS program — whether that means going on to college, starting a career or learning to live independently. “All students have their own goals for life after high school,” said Bona Vista Director of Vocational Services Meredith Freeman. “Historically, students with IEPs have not had the extra help they might need in preparing for that life. Pre-ETS will help these students lay the groundwork for whatever they want to do after high school, whether that is employment or higher education of some sort.”
The funds available through this grant will help students with job exploration counseling, work-based learning experiences (whether that’s during school or after; paid or job shadow/internship) in an integrated environment, counseling on opportunities for enrollment in comprehensive transition or postsecondary educational programs, workplace readiness training to develop social skills and independent living, and instruction in self-advocacy, which may include peer mentoring.
Honestly, I wish this was available for students of all abilities. As a parent, one of my greatest fears is that my child won’t be fully prepared for the “real world” when they graduate. They will be incredibly book smart, but lack basic life skills. For example, how to handle themselves in a job interview (and what to wear!) and how to manage their money (or file taxes!) are situations that some typically-developing children don’t know when they graduate. This program will assist with all of those situations, and better prepare enrolled students with the transition after high school.
Kokomo High School Vice-Principal Kelly Barker is excited about the program because she feels it will bring more awareness to the opportunities available to students. “We are very excited about the opportunities that could be created by Pre-Employment Transition Services (ETS),” she said. “Such services would be critical for so many students. Students seeking employment often are unaware of the expectations and responsibilities connected to a job. Some students are not prepared for job interviews and often have unrealistic expectations. Pre-ETS would help students obtain skills necessary to be successful in the world of work.”
The North Central Collaborative covers Howard, Tipton, Miami, Grant and Wabash counties. Interested school staff or families can contact Freeman at 765-454-5997.