Participants in Olentangy Local Schools’ Academy for Community Transition talked about the success of the program’s first year at a school board meeting last week.
Based at the Olentangy Academy in Lewis Center, students with disabilities can participate in the Community Transition program based on the recommendation of the district’s Individualized Education Program team.
“ACT is a program designed to help students prepare for life after graduation,” said adviser Dawn Imbrogno last Thursday. “Eligible students must have participated in Olentangy’s Specialized Learning Center high school programs, have met all academic requirements for graduation, and wish to participate in post-secondary community and job skills training.”
The U.S. unemployment rate for people with disabilities is 75 percent, Imbrogno said.
“Our school district is definitely being proactive and innovative by providing these students with individualized training opportunities,” she said.
The ACT students spend half their day in the classroom, and half their day at job sites. Local companies participating in the program include: Bob Evans; Buffalo Wings & Rings; Cozy Cat Cottage Adoption Center; Delaware County Board of Developmental Disabilities; Flair Finishes, Decor & Supply; Frisch’s Big Boy; Goodwill; J. Bentley Studio & Spa; Legacy Paper Arts; Milano Florist & Greenhouses; OfficeMax; Ruby Tuesday; Smidge & Pinch; Super Kick; and the YMCA.
“The purpose for attending this program is different for each student,” Imbrogno said. “Some may be in the program for job exploration, to attain the skills needed to get a job in the community, or to increase their independence and group skills that will increase their chances of being accepted into other post-secondary programs like the Career Center or Project SEARCH.”
“I wanted to learn more skills and explore different jobs,” said student Emma Pequignot. “I have worked this year to make new friends and try community jobs. I plan to return to ACT the next school year.”
“I wanted to do more things in the community and learn life skills,” said student Claire Turon. “I got to try a lot of shops that have helped me decide what I like and don’t like. I had an interview, and I’ve been accepted to Project SEARCH next school year.”
“Project SEARCH is a one-year high school transition program which provides training and education leading to employment for individuals with disabilities,” said the district’s website. “Each student applies and is accepted to the program through a selection committee process. All students must be eligible for services with the Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities to participate.”
She said the students learn communication skills, self-determination, independence, teamwork and stamina from the ACT program. Imbrogno said there are seven students in the ACT program, a number that is expected to double in the next school year.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.