STEPping Toward a New Career

So far, settling into his new routine as an intern at Boone Hospital Center has been going smoothly for Brandon, a Rock Bridge High School senior. He’s responsible for sanitizing and organizing medical equipment and works approximately 20 hours per week getting valuable on-the-job training while earning high school credit toward graduation.

Brandon is one of seven other Columbia high school seniors participating in the Seamless Transition through Enhanced Partnership (STEP) Program designed to improve employment outcomes for youth with developmental disabilities. The program, now in its second year, was created through a partnership between Columbia Public Schools, ACT, Vocational Rehabilitation, Boone Hospital Center and Boone County Family Resources.

“The STEP program has been a tremendous success,” says Duane Shumate, District Supervisor, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. “Last year we saw the lives of six individuals shaped in ways that previously had only been imagined. We have seen families, businesses and community moved through the inspirational stories of hope and pride. We have seen networking become cooperation, cooperation become partnership and partnership become collaboration.”

Brandon and the other students selected for the STEP program had to meet a long list of criteria, including being a student with Columbia public schools, having a developmental disability and needing vocational development. They must also provide letters of recommendation. Finally, students must be appointed to the program by a selection committee comprised of representatives from each of the member agencies.

“Brandon was selected for the program because he is committed to transition from school to work. With coordinated mentoring and support combined with his ambition, we feel he’ll meet that goal,” said Mark Satterwhite, Director of the Life & Work Connections program at Boone County Family Resources.

The students selected for the program begin their internship in a classroom with vocational training from certified teachers from Columbia Public Schools and Alternative Community Training (ACT) in a classroom at Boone Hospital. Then they are given various job posts throughout the hospital which may include cleaning and maintaining medical equipment, food service, or laundry service.

Brandon will continue to work with STEP facilitators throughout the school year with the hope that he will secure a permanent job at the hospital or another local business by graduation.

DSC_0909“When the students complete the school year, they have not only learned valuable, employable skills, but also good interpersonal skills such as showing up to work on time, working with a team, communicating with co-workers and supervisors, goal setting, and time management,” says Mark. “The hope is these skills will translate to long-lasting and reliable jobs for students completing the program.”