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Transition internships: The Work Experience Project

 

Tenino High School transition student Justin Thompson was one of the first students to participate in Morningside’s Work Experience Project, a community internship program for students with developmental disabilities. Justin completed his internship with The Washington Conservation Corps at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge during the 2013-2014 school year.

 

Interns like Justin have a variety of work settings and job descriptions to choose from at sites like Olympia Orthopaedic Associates, the City of Tumwater, City of Yelm, Harbor Wholesale Foods, the Department of Ecology, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Washington State Employees Credit Union, City of Lacey, Center for Natural Lands Management, and Providence Health & Services. And more sites are being developed.

While Justin was learning about landscaping and protecting species and the environment, he also learned critical workplace “soft skills”—things like following directions, teamwork, communication, and problem solving.  Justin thrived during his internship. He enjoyed the camaraderie of the crew. His self-confidence grew by leaps and bounds, and he was able to showcase his skills in a way that was not available to him in the classroom. When Justin competed in a grubbing race--digging a hole to plant a tree the fastest--he would sing “We are the Champions.” This was a new side of Justin!  

The Work Experience Project has given Justin a leg up

and his future is promising. His WCC supervisors were

so pleased with his internship, they encouraged him to apply for a two-year paid AmeriCorps Program position with the WCC.

 

High School Transition Programs are mandated by Federal law and designed to assist high school students with disabilities transition from a school environment to a work environment after graduation. They do this typically by introducing the students in a classroom setting to what it means to work, and by assessing student interests and matching those interests with job possibilities. The Work Experience Project takes this a step further. It is designed to bridge the gap between the classroom experience and work experience for transition students, with a goal of more job placements for transition students immediately upon graduation. 

 

The Work Experience Project is a collaboration between Morningside, Thurston County Developmental Disabilities, and the school districts in Thurston County. For more information about The High School Transition Program or The Work Experience Project, please call Morningside at 360-596-3518.

 

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