Project Search provides internships, training for disabled students

January 21, 2013

Students with disabilities will have an opportunity Thursday to hear details about internships and training being made available through a partnership between the Sedalia 200 district and State Fair Community College.

An informational open house for Project Search will be offered 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Smith-Cotton High School. Project Search takes special needs students who have completed four years of high school and provides them with a fifth year of instruction centered on employment skills and knowledge; the “classroom” is a partner business that can offer suitable employment for the students.

“We’ve planned a really nice informational night on Project Search,” said Chris Pyle, director of special services for the Sedalia 200 district. “We’ll show a DVD from where the program originated in Cincinnati ... and show what a day will look like in our Project Search location at State Fair Community College.”

Securing a partner to provide internships was the final piece needed for the program, and Pyle admitted he and his team “were starting to get pretty nervous about that.”

“We’re thankful for them,” Pyle said. “They opened a space for us, they opened some doors for us.”

SFCC President Marsha Drennon sees the Project Search partnership as “a wonderful thing for the community.” The college’s involvement started with a visit from Sedalia 200 Superintendent Harriet Wolfe.

“Dr. Wolfe came to visit with me and told me about this extraordinary grant the district had received,” Drennon said. “This is really dedicated to help a group of students who tend to fall through the cracks — they are not quite college ready, their abilities are not quite what they need to be for college-level study. Nonetheless, they deserve our attention.”

Drennon added that the college is “excited about the opportunity ... to serve a group of students we have not been able to serve before.”

The first year, Project Search will take eight students, and in following years plans are to take up to 12. If there are not eight qualified students in the Sedalia district, the program will accept students from the West Central Consortium, which includes Green Ridge, Cole Camp, Otterville, La Monte, Smithton, Lincoln, Sweet Springs, Warsaw and Northwest.

Thursday’s open house will include representatives from the Center for Human Services, one of the Project Search partner agencies, who will explain the support CHS will provide for the program and students. There will be opportunities for questions, and explanations of the application and recruitment timeline will be shared.

Pyle praised special education supervisor Brooke Spratley for her work on the project, and stressed that parents “just need to show up” Thursday to learn about the internship opportunities.

Smith-Cotton is the fifth —  and smallest — school in Missouri to win approval to offer Project Search.

“We just feel very fortunate to have it here,” Pyle said. “And we’re glad to have State Fair Community College partner with us.”

Drennon said the college looks forward to providing classroom space, faculty and mentors to help special needs students prepare for the next phase of their lives.

“We will create employment opportunities for them on campus that will prepare them to be more independent and help them be confident in what they can do,” Drennon said. “Certainly these are students who are very much wanting to be contributing members of society.”