For Special-Needs Kids, Post-Grad Plans Need to Hatch in Middle School

shared courtesy of The Philadelphia Inquirer

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania – Hannah Scott whipped a white Drexel University T-shirt out of a large cardboard box and, with efficiency that would turn the head of organizing expert Marie Kondo, went to work using a green plastic shirt-folder. Within seconds, she added the now wrinkle-free, perfectly-creased garment to a growing pile that was ready to be put on shelves in the Barnes & Noble campus bookstore at Drexel, where she was working.

“Good afternoon,” Scott called out to a student who entered the store. Greeting patrons was also part of her duties, she said, as she added another shirt to the stack.

“I like this job,” said Scott, 19, from West Philadelphia. “I want to keep it the whole school year.”

Scott, who has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is one of eight students from Hill-Freeman World Academy, a Philadelphia public school participating in Project SEARCH at Drexel University. It’s a one-year program geared toward providing job training and internships to help high school students on the spectrum transition into the workforce.

In its first year, seven of eight Hill-Freeman participants in Project SEARCH found jobs after leaving high school. In its second year, all 18 Hill-Freeman students did, and are now employed at businesses like Stitch Data, CVS, Fresh Grocer, Best Buy, and the Philadelphia International Airport.

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