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Special needs program offers lessons for all
A cooperative program between Nebraska hospitals and a state agency is giving kids who struggled in high school a chance to excel in the workforce.
Spotlighted as part of October's National Disability Awareness Month, Project Search offers training and opportunities that seem to us to be good ideas regardless the young person's abilities.
Funded through Nebraska Vocational Rehab, a division of the Department of Education, Project Search originated at Cincinnati Children's Hospital in 1996, and has been established in Grand Island, Kearney and Hastings.
The Hastings program gives students who struggled at Hastings and Adams Central high schools a chance to build confidence and experience through individualized one-on-one on-the-job training in tasks that mirror actual jobs at Mary Lanning Hospital in Hastings and other medical facilities, such as materials management, pre-op surgery, housekeeping, cardiopulmonary, sub-acute; in-patient nursing, human resources and switchboard.
In addition to job skills, the program helps students with basic life skills such as how to budged and other independent living skills.
In the first year at Hastings, all five students were placed in jobs upon completion and continue to hold those jobs today.
Last year, three of four completed the program and are now employed in medical field positions, and the director is optimistic all six students from this year's class will be placed in jobs by the end of the school year.
It's not an easy course -- students must express a desire to be competitively employed, be in their last year of school eligibility and have an individualized educational program in place and be actively working in the Nebraska Vocational Rehab program.
While Project Search is aimed at students with disabilities, many students, even those who might normally be channeled into college-track academics, could benefit from hands-on training -- apprentiships, if you will -- and life-skills education to help them be successful whatever their occupation.
With traditional four-year college costs and student debt skyrocketing, and with new opportunities in technology and other trades that don't require liberal arts educations, we can all learn something from students involved with Project Search.