WILMINGTON — Southern State Community College (SSCC) is offering a new program for high school graduates with intellectual disabilities to continue their education and better prepare them for fulfilling work while also meeting employers’ needs.
Called the SSCC College to Career Experience Program, SSCC President Dr. Kevin Boys introduced the program coordinator to Clinton County commissioners last week.
The College to Career Experience (CCE) Program at Southern State is one of only 10 such programs in Ohio, made more distinctive with the rural area served by Southern State, said program coordinator Sonja Wilkin.
As suggested by its name, the College to Career Experience is very workplace-geared, and one goal is to place students in an internship in their first or second term.
Inclusive college classes are taken for audit or credit by the students.
There are misconceptions about individuals with intellectual disabilities, Wilkin said. For one thing, the attitudes of individuals with intellectual disabilities rank as high or higher than people without intellectual disabilities.
Having an employee with intellectual disabilities can improve the worker morale in some environments, said Wilkin.
Although people with intellectual disabilities have challenges as individuals, they also bring a lot of benefit to a workplace, she said. The key is to find the right environment.
And for the student participant, a key to ultimately landing a successful job placement is finding his or her true interest and ability, according to Wilkin.
The transportation piece is a hurdle in executing the College to Career Experience Program. Southern State will be offering the program at its central campus in Hillsboro, which, as Boys said, is “a bit of a trek” for a young person in Clinton County.
The county commissioners are enthusiastic about the new program. Clinton County Commissioner Mike McCarty said he loves it, noting that after high school, all too often formal education and skills building disappear for young people with intellectual disabilities.
Clinton County Commissioner Brenda K. Woods brought up she has a brother-in-law with Down syndrome, and she’ll be eager to hear how the program goes.
Wilkin hopes everybody embraces this post-high school education and career exploration transition program.
The program is available to students with an intellectual disability who qualified for IDEA services in their secondary education, and who would otherwise be unable to obtain access to post-secondary education due to entrance testing requirements and/or the need for modifications to post-secondary course work.
IDEA stands for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a law that makes free appropriate public education available to eligible children with disabilities.
Post-secondary transition programs were made possible by an amendment to the Federal Higher Education Act.
Wilkin said the University of Cincinnati had a recent graduate of its transition program who obtained a bachelor’s degree in journalism.
“Nobody would have thought that possible,” she remarked. “If given an opportunity, you just never know.”
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.