June 5, 2020
By Carly Blake
HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - The University of Southern Mississippi has started it’s Transition of Teens to Adult Life summer program.
It is a work-based training and internship program for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities ages 16 to 21.
“This year, we are doing all of our training virtually through Zoom," said Danielle Parks with USM’s Institute for Disability Studies. "We teach them and train them. They also have time on their own to work on learning at home activities, that is what we call them.”
It focuses on job exploration counseling, workforce readiness training, work-based experiences and internships, self-advocacy training and post-secondary education.
“It’s mainly us just helping them gain those skills to go beyond high school," said Parks. "A lot of people with disabilities wonder what’s next for me after high school, I feel like I can’t get a job, I feel like I can’t go to college. This program is about helping them feel like they can achieve that and learn to be self-advocates and speak up for themselves as well.”
Alex Harrison is a 2020 graduate from Harrison Central High School who is part of the program.
He hopes to one day become a librarian.
He says he’s grateful for this program that will help him achieve that goal.
“It’s important during this time that we continue to have support, training and assistance," said Harrison. "I appreciate USM for reaching out to people like me and I thank them for helping me spread this message.”
This is the first year for the program to be completely online, due to COVID-19.
It’s also the first year Miss USM Vivian O’Neal was involved in the classes.
“It’s incredible that they are doing what they are and they are having these virtual workshops and employment training," O’Neal said. "It’s such an important issue and it needs to be addressed.”
The first two weeks of the program are virtual classes, then the next seven weeks students will participate in internships.
This program is funded by the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services.