The Disability Action Center’s Mission Transition program provides year-round transition and family support services to students with disabilities and their families in grades 9-12 in all three Marion County High Schools.
Mission Transition expansion efforts include providing year-round case management, self-advocacy training, in-school student workshops, family support workshops, social security work incentives counseling and mentoring opportunities, along with job shadowing and exploration opportunities. It is vital to post-secondary success to increase the graduation rate of special needs students with a standard high school diploma whenever possible, increase the workplace readiness and independent living training prior to the student’s graduation, and increase the overall post-high school employment, training, self-advocacy, and supportive services available for special needs students. Focusing on education and inclusion of the entire family on post-secondary opportunities is paramount to the student’s success and vital to dispelling fears created by generational poverty and dependency of Social Security Benefits.
Each year, approximately 60 students with special needs graduate from the three Marion County High Schools. The Mission Transition program identifes students who are in jeopardy of not graduating, as well as students and families who are underprepared, stressed, and/or overwhelmed with the prospect of their special needs child graduating. For any family, high school graduation is a milestone that can be both joyful and frightening. For students with special needs and their families, this transition is by far the hardest and most stressful period in their lives. Special needs students have often been in schools and therapies with the same providers and teachers since birth. When that child graduates, most of the support that family has depended on will also end. The routine and schedule that is so vital to these families is no more.
The Mission Transition program allows students and families to receive the support they need both in school with structured workshops, and outside of the school environment (work experience days, training days at the DAC site) before graduation when their child is no longer in the safe and familiar environment of school. School personnel can refer families much earlier, even prior to the student’s junior year when it is inevitable that more extension transition services will be needed post high school. Earlier intervention and exposure to post-secondary opportunities is vital to a successful transition to adulthood.
The major objectives of the Mission Transition program include:
1. Provide vital linkage and referral services to students with disabilities and their families prior to graduation with emphasis on Social Security work incentive education, improved IEP Transition plans, earlier application for IDD Waiver when applicable, guardianship/conservator training, and collaboration with other disability service providers.
2. Provide employment readiness, financial aid assistance, family and individual workshops, advocacy, independent living training, and customized support to special needs students in both an in-school environment and out-of-school environment including the DAC’s 11,000 square foot accessible center.
3. Expand existing DAC programs including our People First of Marion County, LIFE (Living Independently, Focusing on Empowerment) and AIM (Advocacy, Inclusion, and Mentoring) programs to meet the needs of younger students with disabilities and their families.
4. Provide job shadow/exploration opportunities to special needs students through our vast employer network including the Marion County Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Marion County, Workforce WV Partner Network, and our diverse Board of Directors. Job Shadow and exploration opportunities are also available through internal DAC positions including secretarial, janitorial, and laundry assistant.
The Mission Transition programming and activities take place at the three area high schools, the DAC facility, and at community employment placements in Marion County, WV. Job Shadow/work-based experiences in the community provide not only the perfect platform for students to be exposed to integrated, competitive employment opportunities, but it also provides the Mission Transition staff the opportunity to better educate employers on accessibility in the workplace, the benefits of hiring people with disabilities, work opportunity tax credits, and more.
The major flagship event of the program is the Marion County Schools-DAC Transition Fair held in the Spring to provide over 100 special needs Junior and Seniors with the opportunity to meet with specialized training and transition providers including colleges, technical schools, employers, housing providers, and more. Intensive summer services will be provided for graduates who need additional assistance with education planning, employment readiness, and enrollment in post-high school support services, including those offered long term at the Disability Action Center. Ultimately, the Mission Transition program empowers participants to become employed, earning a living wage and giving back to their community, while reaching the greatest level of personal independence and satisfaction as possible.
Mission Transition in school workshops, parent workshops, job exploration days, and early intervention services will commence with the beginning of each school year, run throughout the entire school year, and culminate with the intensive summer program for graduates.
Mission Transition programs and generously sponsored by the Tygart Valley United Way in partnership with the Marion County Board of Educaiton.
For more information on the Mission Transition Program, please call the DAC at 304-366-3213.