Blount County Schools offers career internships for students with disabilities

MARYVILLE (WATE) – Blount County Schools is offering a new program to help students with disabilities make the transition from school into the work force.

This month was the kick-off of Project Search, a new partnership between Maryville College and the Blount County School System. The internship gives students some hands-on experience before they graduate.

“I put the letters and the books in it, then I have to match the letters to the names up to the envelopes,” Brittany Campbell said.

She enjoys her days at her first job. Technically it’s an internship, since at the end of the year she’ll be graduating from William Blount High School.

“I want to go out and try and find me a job somewhere out in the community,” said Campbell.

For now, she and four other students with special needs, who are in their senior year, are interning at Maryville College taking part in Project Search.

“We can teach job skills in the classroom, but until you are on the job site and know what’s going on. Those job skills are very hard to teach and transfer,” said Tammy Hearon, a special education teacher at William Blount High School.

There’s a uniform, a schedule, and the interns had to apply with references to be there. The students work from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. with a 30 minute lunch break.

“I sweep, I wipe down counters and the tables, make sure they have food, make sure there are plates out, make sure everything is all set up,” said student Allen Denton.

Every nine weeks they get to explore a number of different paths, everything from clerical work to food service. It’s a learning experience for teams of students at the college, too.

“As they learn to transition from high school into the workplace, they’ll work with them one-on-one as they practice that curriculum. And also they’ll meet them back at the high school at the end of their work day at Maryville College and help them with their reading and their math,” said associate professor of psychology Ariane Schratter.

These students, or rather interns, will graduate with a resume and a number of opportunities.

“It gives them confidence that ‘I can do this.'” said Hearon.

“It will help me get new job skills like this and help me learn responsibilities,” said Campbell.

Project Search in Blount County is one of 10 sites across the state doing this sort of program. The Blount County School System crediting grant funding and community partnerships for the possibility to do Project Search. There’s also the hope to partner with other businesses in the community for more internship possibilities.

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