Career experiences for special needs students are benefiting the people they work with as well as themselves.
Over 100 special needs students in Collier County schools are participating in a career experience program with local businesses. Some students work a few hours a week outside school at local shops or large corporations such as NCH Health Systems and Publix Supermarkets. Others work in the school preparing breakfast for teachers or doing laundry.
The goal of the program is to have students with intellectual disabilities develop skills and experiences that will help them be ready for employment after high school.
“We try to get them as prepared as we can for competitive employment and to be out in the real world,” said special education teacher Gina Manville.
Sometimes the unpaid internships can turn into paid employment. “ ‘They’re more dependable, they’re more reliable, they feel pride in the job they’re doing.’ We’ve heard some of that from the businesses. Our students end up adding something to the organization that they didn’t have,” said Sherry Alvies, director of exceptional student education.