A unique Butler Tech program is getting attention and will soon go national

A Butler Tech program to help teens and young adults with special needs learn life skills, work jobs and grow independent is drawing national attention and the largest grant in its history.

The Butler County career school has been so successful, it has won a $225,000 grant to help duplicate its program across the nation.

Both the money for its special needs program and the offer to replicate a learning program across America are firsts in the history of Butler Tech.

The $225,000 grant from the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation will support the national replication of Butler Tech’s Project LIFE transition-to-work program, said school officials.

“Project LIFE is proven to produce positive growth and employment outcomes for students with significant disabilities,” said Reena Fish, Project LIFE replication coordinator.

The money is the largest grant received in the history of the program, which began at Butler Tech in 2007.

That year the career school system, which is one of the largest in Ohio, teamed up with Butler County Board of Developmental Disabilities, Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, parent mentors, and associated school district personnel.

The program, which now includes 60 students in ages ranging from 18 to 22, has since evolved into a multi-year learning continuum of programming that gives students with complex disabilities and their families an opportunity to realize a more independent and successful future than was possible in year’s past.

“Our focus is primarily on helping our student interns gain a variety of transferable entry level job skills but our staff and business partners are always ready to provide additional job training opportunities if the interest and skill sets are evident,” said Fish.

“Our students may have a diagnosis of a disability, but we don’t let that get in the way of trying new opportunities. These young adults consistently exceed the expectations that mainstream society so often sets for them,” she said.

Students learn and test out in real-life situations a wide variety of life skills they need with the goal for most participants being able to live more independently and to become employable.

“Our students, their families and our community as a whole all win when individuals with complex learning challenges are provided with educational experiences that enable them to be employed, valued and active participants in their communities,” said Fish. “Indeed, it is every citizen’s right to contribute to society through employment and it is a responsibility that we take very seriously.”

Project LIFE is endorsed by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center’s Project SEARCH program for providing learning experiences leading to successful employment outcomes for students with significant disabilities, said Fish.

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