Did you know that many students with disabilities can function well in high-technology and science related employment, but the challenge is to help high school students with disabilities remain in high school and understand that a productive future is possible for them. Our High School/High Tech program meets this challenge. Typically, only 56 percent of American students with disabilities graduate from high school. Results for the program have been outstanding: 99 percent of student participants have remained in or graduated from high school, and many have expressed an interest in pursuing post-secondary education or training. Our graduates are currently enrolled in Rice University, Baylor University, Rochester Institute of Technology, the University of Houston, Houston Community College System, San Jacinto College, and Alvin Community College, to name just a few.According to a recent Foundation Center survey, only 2.9% of grant dollars were directed to programs serving people with disabilities in spite of the fact that the most recent US Census showed that one in five Americans lives with a disability or long-term medical condition. If we assume that the students in our program would drop out without our intervention at the national average dropout rate for students with disabilities, the estimated cost to society for this year’s participants alone would be approximately $40 million over their life times. With help from organizations & corporations, we have been able to increase the number of students served, but still have a waiting list of schools with students who could truly benefit from our program services.
These teens, with all types of disabilities, are highly at risk for dropping out of high school, becoming the victims of abuse or being unfairly limited by other people’s expectations. In the past ten years, we have served almost 3,000 students, have seen almost 100 succeed in their first job through our internship program and had almost 1,000 students from our program graduate with better skills for their futures.
Our High School High Tech along with our Social Motion Skills staff at Easter Seals Greater Houston is committed to assisting youth with disabilities in making a smooth transition from high school into the work force and secondary education. Social Motions Skills works to break down and de-mystify the social demands children and young adults face every day by reinforcing positive character traits, introducing age-appropriate social skills and activities and practicing real world scenarios until the skill and coping method become more natural — because practice makes possible. HSHT staff meets with students at schools and facilitates lessons regarding vocational skills such as: work readiness, resume writing, interviewing skills, identifying strengths/weaknesses, and career interests. A major component of the HSHT program is to grant internship opportunities to students that are in tune with their particular interests. The students’ interests have a wide range from a career in welding, to the medical field, military aspirations, graphic design, and etc.
RAMP (Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program) is another career-focused program for teens which serves at risk teens with disabilities via mentoring from individuals in the community. RAMP staff meets with these students at schools and engage in activities surrounding social skills, independent living skills, and work readiness skills. In addition, RAMP youths learn the concept of setting both long-term and short-term goals. A chief element of RAMP is career exploration. Youths have the opportunity to attend field trips for behind-the-scene tours to learn about all the careers within an organization that allow it to function.