WILMINGTON — In an effort to assist students with unique learning needs in their transition beyond the high school classroom, educational leaders throughout the county partnered to provide students options that support and encourage integration within the community and the workplace.
The collaborative efforts of Wilmington College, the County Board of Developmental Disabilities, Southern Ohio Educational Service Center, Blanchester, Clinton-Massie, East Clinton Local and Wilmington City Schools brought to fruition the Wilmington College Immersion Program.
The Immersion Program offers high school students with diverse disabilities, deferring graduation, the opportunity to participate in vocational experiences, career exploration, and college coursework such as auditing college classes.
According to Garry Banning, Immersion Program Intervention Specialist, there are currently six students enrolled in the one year certificate program that focuses on three areas — employment, self-determination, and independent living — all on the campus of Wilmington College.
To assist students in securing gainful employment, students participate in vocational instruction, work experience through unpaid internships on campus, and career exploration with the goal of obtaining and sustaining competitive employment. Students gain additional support in this area by participating in the Envision IT online curriculum.
Developing self-determination leads students to direct their academic planning and career development through person-centered planning. Independent living skills are developed though campus and community experiences and accessing classroom instruction.
Immersion students also participate in online vocational training programs and technology training, and work with mentors who assist with job development and coaching, service coordination, work experiences, and job placement.
According to Jan Ferris, who serves as the Immersion Program Coordinator, vocational and post-secondary experience opportunities are limited for students with disabilities, especially in rural areas such as Clinton County. The Immersion Program provides students with these experiences at no cost to the student and allows them to see if the college experience is an option they would like to pursue.
Blanchester High School’s Daniel Adams assists with filing in the campus housing office. Dakota Culberson works in the campus bookstore and helps run the college’s Facebook page. Alex Jones works in the public relations office delivering copies to professors throughout the campus.
Clinton-Massie High School’s Sarah Shambrock worked in the Wilmington College Library helping to organize a collection of recently donated books and now works at the Pyle Center Cafeteria for the SODEXO Food Service Management Company.
East Clinton High School’s William Lewis also works for SODEXO at the Pyle Center Cafeteria.
And Wilmington High School’s Andrew Thompson works with the Wilmington College athletic program where he coordinates the collection, laundering, and redistribution of uniforms for the Quaker athletes.
According to Banning, the college community has welcomed the immersion students, who now feel that they, too, are members of the Quakers’ student body.
Information for this article was provided by Diana Miller, who coordinates communications for several area schools.