MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The goal of MPS’ "School to Work" Transition Program is to get high school students with special needs ready for the workforce.
“A lot of kids need this opportunity,” said Fonda Scott, a parent of a student in the program.
“It gives us a chance to show that this is what we can really do,” said her daughter, LaFonda Jordon.
On Thursday, May 22nd, over 100 students currently in the program were recognized at Mount Mary University.
Program supervisors say that a classroom can only take students so far when it comes to preparing them for the workforce.
The School to Work Transition Program fills in those blanks.
It’s an employment readiness program that gives high school students with special needs the hands on environment they need to continue their success after school.
“We have the complete spectrum of students with special needs. It’s so important for them because typically they are very different learners. A lot of them have not been very successful in school as other students and this is wonderful opportunity for them. It hits on their learning styles. It's real-life application. They develop those soft skills that are so important. Soft skills, conflict management, work ethic, perseverance and a number of those things you develop in the real world and it’s very hard to develop them in the same way in a classroom,” said Barbara Barnes, Special Service Supervisor for the School to Work Transition Program.
Barnes says it’s a three part program.
The first part is a volunteer component.
More than 200 students each semester get high school credit for going to one of the 20 work sites. They stay there two to four semesters learning hard skills and soft skills.
Then, they move on to on-the-job training for one semester -- where they get paid minimum wage and continue to learn those skills.
The third part involves a teacher being devoted to a student to get them ready for competitive employment.
“They are getting that real-life experience, working side-by-side with work site mentors at the work site and getting that hands-on learning,” said Barnes.
Some of the sites include:
- Nurturing Nook -- where students and work as a child care worker, or receptionist
- The V.A. Hospital -- where they can do anything from a cafeteria attendant, to a patient escort, to supply distribution
- Boston Store -- where students can work as a retail clerk assistant
- Hospitals like St. Joseph’s, Wheaton Franciscan, or Aurora Medical Center -- which offer a wide array responsibilities.
Students can work at more than one throughout their time in the program. Many start their sophomore year and go through graduation.
“It’s just so sincerely gratifying to see these students come from their initial levels of beginning skills and developing all those skills and soaring to new levels of success,” said Barnes.