HSHT In the News
Brooks County Newsletter
Dublin / Laurens County High School High Tech Kickoff Program
Augusta Area High School High Tech Motivational Training Kick-Off Program
From Georgia's High School/High Tech Tackles Transition
Probably it's what most high school students need: comprehensive and holistic transition planning to complete high school and execute post-secondary and vocational goals. After all, nationally roughly a third of students entering high school do not complete, and without a diploma, their lifetime earnings are substantially lower compared with those who do.
For students with disabilities, however, the issue is more critical. Employment statistics for people with disabilities are poor, just 26% were employed in 2008 (according to the Cornell University Employment and Disability Institute); and for a myriad of reasons, students who leave high school without an effective transition plan risk not only entrenched joblessness, but also social isolation.
To tackle these issues, Georgia has created a transition initiative that is now serving as a national model. High School/High Tech (HS/HT) is a year-round program serving motivated youth with disabilities between 14 and 22 years old. High School/High Tech prepares students with disabilities for careers in science, technology and technical fields, and serves students at risk of dropping out of school because of their disabilities.
The program is a partnership among schools, the Georgia Department of Labor Vocational Rehabilitation program, Tools for Life (Georgia's AT Act Program), numerous community members, students and their families. Together these collaborators provide academic and career development experiences that lead to further education and/or high-tech jobs.
Program Nuts and Bolts:
Each HS/HT site follows 5 guideposts the program considers essential for student success:
1. School-based preparatory experiences
2. Career preparatory and work-based learning experiences
3. Youth development and leadership
4. Connecting activities (including AT, job shadowing, industry tours, mentoring, transportation)
5. Family involvement and supports
At present, 45 schools participate across Georgia, each providing Career Tech instruction integrated with Special Education, regular education, and Vocation Rehabilitation services. How the program is offered, however, may vary from one location to another. Some sites offer HS/HT as a school elective or a club or after-school program; elsewhere HS/HT may be a multi-school site coordinated by the Vocational Rehabilitation program. In 2009, HS/HT had 454 active student participants (25% of whom were VR clients).
Like any responsible transition program, HS/HT puts a heavy emphasis on developing a student's self-determination and self-advocacy skills. Unique to this program, however, is the level of community involvement integrated into the curricula. HS/HT students have the opportunity to create valuable community relationships through:
Individualized Computer Technology Training
HS/HT seniors who are transitioning to new environments also receive computer and AT training thanks to Tech-Able, an AT Regional Center in the Georgia Tools for Life (AT Act) program network. The program provides seniors individualized training on refurbished laptops with AT software specific to their needs. The students then apply competitively for their own laptops by securing recommendations, and writing essays to explain how the laptop and AT would benefit them with post-secondary education or employment. The laptops are funded through local grants or the Vocational Rehabilitation Program and are refurbished for a nominal fee by ReBoot, another Georgia Tools for Life program.
The computer training program has seen impressive success. In 2008 over 95% of HS/HT seniors who received this training graduated; and over 90% credited the training program for being "extremely helpful" with meeting their goals. In recent years, more than 200 students have received refurbished laptops. This year VR is providing $35K for 100 high-end refurbished laptops and carrying cases.
Coming Soon: Virtual Worlds Mentoring Island
HS/HT is also looking forward to collaborating with a new project funded by the National Science Foundation through Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia. The project will bring together students and teachers in a creative virtual world for mentoring and learning. (Read about it in the sidebar article: "Virtual Worlds to Support Transition in Georgia," this issue).
According to Joy Kniskern, AT Programs Manager at Georgia Dept. of Labor (among other roles), HS/HT has learned some important lessons since its founding in 1997. In an email to ATPN she observes:
Interested in starting a High School High Tech program?
Today Florida, Oklahoma, Ohio, Michigan, South Carolina, Maryland, Delaware, Colorado, and Texas have or are creating their own versions of HS/HT. If you are interested in starting a HS/HT program and wish to learn more, contact:
Georgia Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, Inc.
P.O. Box 1090
Fortston, GA 31808