SC awarded $10 million pilot program to help post-grad students with disabilities
In September, The United States Department of Education announced that it will allocate nearly $200 million toward improving career opportunities for students with disabilities nationwide. South Carolina was named one of several states to benefit from the $199 million grant that will improve career opportunities for students with disabilities.
The Post and Courier reports the Palmetto State is one of 20 participating states and is set to receive $10 million, according to the South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE). The U.S. Department of Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration awarded this grant as part of its South Carolina Pathways to Partnerships (SCPP) innovative model project.
“Over 60% of students in SC have a disability, that is just a learning disability, not a physical disability,” South Carolina Department of Education Representative Derek Phillips said. “So, when they leave our schools and are not able to earn a high school diploma, this is obviously an issue that they are not able to go into the workforce since they don’t have the proper credentials.”
Pathways to Partnerships concentrates on self-sufficiency for young disabled communities, providing a way for those unable to receive a traditional high school diploma, and creating systemic approaches to enrich their post-grad school outcomes.
What does the grant mean for South Carolina?
As part of the SCPP, the SCDE’s director of special education services, Peter Keup, notes “the partnership will be looking to assist pilot districts in developing career-oriented diploma pathways through innovative course sequence applications. We see this work as an opportunity to improve the overall graduation rate for students in South Carolina, and the graduation rate for students with disabilities in particular.”
SCPP is a disability-led collaborative effort between the SCDE, Able South Carolina, and the South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Department (SCVRD). The SCDE was one of just 12 state education agencies, involving five public school districts, selected nationwide to serve as a lead agency for this grant. This five-year-long pilot program will also include several state agencies and nonprofits. It’s important for these individuals to choose their future career path and be a part of the conversation, so this is an opportunity to ensure students are able to enter the workforce with confidence.
State Superintendent of Education Ellen Weaver commented that “children should be defined by their capability, not their disability, and we believe in the incredible potential of every student.” She knows “there are many students with special needs, who – provided the proper training, credentials, and pathway – can become productive, contributing members of our community and workforce. This important project will deepen our partnership with schools, the South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Department, and South Carolina centers for independent living to ensure even more of these students enter life after high school prepared for competitive employment.”
Local nonprofit AccessAbility, centrally focused on building confidence and advocacy for independent living, says this opportunity has been a long time coming. “Everyone in America wants the same opportunity,” Executive Director Julia Martinelli said. “But if you’re shut out from the opportunity, if you can’t get in the building, if you can’t get into the doctor’s office, you don’t get that opportunity.”
More open opportunities for students and organizations to learn about independent living and accommodating communities, is how the program is encouraging opportunities where there’s deficits. Martinelli adds “we teach them things about behavior on the job, what the employer is expecting. We participate with employers, we do employer training. We teach employers the importance of hiring people with disabilities.”
The five districts selected to pilot this project in South Carolina are: Bamberg County School District, Rock Hill School District, South Carolina Public Charter School District, Sumter County Schools, and Williamsburg County School District.
Learn more about the U.S. Department of Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration and the Pathways to Partnerships innovative model demonstration project by visiting https://www.ed.gov
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