Assisting students with disabilities after graduation from high school wasn’t something being addressed by post-secondary education, and Dr. Kevin Boys told the Highland County commissioners Wednesday that Southern State Community College wanted that to change.
The president of the local college introduced the College to Career Experience program to the commissioners during their regular Wednesday meeting.
He said the program was designed for high school graduates with intellectual disabilities to allow them to continue their education, while at the same time preparing them for the workplace and meeting the needs of potential employers.
“If you know of people who have children who have graduated from high school and have intellectual disabilities, there is a place for them to continue on with their education,” Boys said. “The emphasis of the program is to take students and connect them, and make them more employer ready.”
He said the most common requirements that potential employers request are three-fold: reliability, showing up for work and being able to pass a drug test.
“We believe this is a population who will do just that,” Boys concluded.
For program coordinator Sonja Wilkin, the effort is personal since she told commissioners she has a son with intellectual disabilities and big dreams.
She said the SSCC program is unique in that it is only one of 10 of its type in Ohio, and is more distinctive due to the predominately rural area served by the college.
“One of the goals is helping the student realize their interest and their abilities, and then finding that correct component out in the employer workplace where they are the most comfortable and where they are most likely to succeed are other goals of the program,” Wilkin said.
The program stresses inclusiveness, she said, in that in addition to the development of “soft skills” like resume writing, students will be able to take college-level courses along with the traditional students, and if they’re able, receive credit for those classes.
“The key here is their involvement and interaction in that class,” she said, “so that they get the additional knowledge, interaction and the benefit of learning, whatever their level might be.”
Wilkin said the college will be working with both the public and private sectors to establish internships and job shadowing, so in her words “they can try on some different opportunities and see what they’re best at.”
Southern State’s innovative program met with high praise from Kraig Walker, community first director of the Highland County Board of DD, who said the program was an extension of what is already in place in schools.
“We have now in service pre-employment skills training in our local schools,” Walker said. “We have at least 80 students in our partnership with Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, and part of that component for our students aged 14 through 22 is the post-secondary options that are available.”
Commissioners issued a proclamation designating October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month, in conjunction with the 30th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In other matters, 10 line item budget transfers were approved, in addition to three contracts and a letter of intent.
A contract was entered into with AEP for easement and right of way on Hobart Drive; a loan agreement contact was approved between county engineer Chris Fauber and First State Bank for the purchase of trucks for the agency; and a contract with Greystone Systems met commission approval for a phone system at the Highland County Justice Center.
Duncan executed a letter of intent for potential purchase of solar-generated energy with the County Commissioners Association of Ohio Service Corp. (CCAOSC). He said it was a non-binding agreement concerning related electric consulting services that the organization was encouraging Ohio counties to support.
Britton described it as a “cost saving measure” that 40 other counties had taken advantage of, and that would allow the county to purchase 25 percent of solar energy for the next 20 years.
Also Wednesday, commissioners signed off on an annual renewal contract for county building maintenance services with Weller’s Plumbing & Heating Inc.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.