Jenks Students With Disabilities Get Job Training

Wednesday, April 22nd 2009, 4:55 pm
By: News On 6

By Terry Hood and Dan Bewley, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Kids with disabilities in Jenks High School are getting on-the-job training, thanks to a nationwide program.

The students train at St. John Health System in preparation for life after high school.

Project Search started in Ohio 13 years ago. Since then it's traveled the world, making its first stop in Oklahoma at Jenks High School.

Matthew Jones is like most soon-to-be high school graduates. He's looking for a job after he gets his diploma.

Lane Stansifer is in the same club. But both Jenks High School students face challenges other grads don't have to worry about -- they both have disabilities.

Lane has Down Syndrome.

"He's easygoing, he's happy and he helps you grow as a parent, understanding that he's just different," said Lane's father, Larry Stansifer.

With Lane fast-approaching adulthood, his parents worried about what he would do after high school. Then he enrolled in Project Search.

"First of all, it's been phenomenal as far as his self-esteem," said his mother, Sheryl Stansifer.

Project Search gives kids with disabilities training for the real world. The students do a variety of internships at St. John Health System, everything from general maintenance to work in the emergency room.

"It gives them a purpose," Project Search teacher Holly McVay said. "It gives them a reason for getting up. They all want to work, the same reason that we want to get up."

Lane's parents say he takes a tremendous amount of pride in the work he does and admit they were surprised he did so well.

"We've learned a lot about what his capabilities are," Sheryl Stansifer said. "He's not limited in this program. They look at what he can do and not what he can't do."

For Lane, the friendships are just as important as the work.

"Ms. McVay is my friend, and Ms. Cathy likes me," he said.

As the class of six graduates from the program, organizers say they're one step ahead and ready for the next challenge.

The students also learn how to interview for positions. After they graduate, they're encouraged to apply for any open positions at St. John.

But instructors say the job skills translate to almost any industry. A new class will begin next fall.