Life and Work Connections

Empowering High School Students Through Project STIR

October 15, 2017
Group of four people sitting at a table.
Lora and Jason from People First of Boone County, Mary from BCFR’s Life & Work Connections program, and Alicia from Boonslick People First (Cooper County) meet to strategize before their next Project STIR sessions with Hickman and Rock Bridge students.

STIR stands for Steps Towards Independence and Responsibility — a curriculum intended to empower people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This fall, through a partnership among Columbia Public Schools, BCFR, and People First, Project STIR* is offered weekly at Rock Bridge and Hickman High Schools, after the regular school day.

A total of nine students are participating in learning sessions that cover:

  • Knowing Yourself
  • Communication and Assertiveness
  • Problem Solving
  • Rights and Responsibilities
  • Self-Advocacy and Self-Determination
  • Charting Your Life Course

“Lora and I are graduates of Project STIR,” says Jason, Vice President of People First of Boone County. “We learned from it. That’s why we’re happy to share it with the students. It will help them to speak up for themselves and to know their rights and responsibilities. It will help them get ready for life after they graduate.”

“It has been great to team up with People First for Project STIR,” says Mary, Community Skills Specialist with Life & Work Connections. “I have amazing co-teachers now and we are able to feed off each other’s ideas and energy while teaching the class. I believe People First’s contribution in teaching this class is a necessity because they have been there and done that.”

“The students have been relating the curriculum to their own lives and are able to share about it,” she says. “We have class discussions frequently as that is the basis of the class – learning from each other. I think we have some future leaders in the class who are already changing the world. It’s an honor to work with these students.”

*Project STIR is based on Speak Up Guide, developed by The Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities, and has been adapted with permission for Missouri. For more information visit It was updated in 2017 to include LifeCourse Tools, with permission from, a free online resource from Missouri Family to Family © UMKC Institute for Human Development.