Posted: Monday, November 23, 2015
About 250 high school seniors converged on the University Center at McAlister Square for Passport to Success, a program sponsored by the GCS Special Education Department and other agencies to encourage students with disabilities to pursue higher education or job training after graduation.
“We want students to know what they need to do to go to college or to enter the work force, and we want to encourage families to use the supports that are available to them,” explained Cheryl Johnson, Director of Parent, School and Community Engagement for Greenville County Schools.
More than 30 agency vendors, colleges and universities, and service providers were on hand to explain their services. “Colleges and universities are here to let students know they have disability support programs, and Vocational Rehabilitation has information about helping students with disabilities secure jobs and financial support for higher education,” said Johnson.
During a session called Life After High School, students heard from former GCS students, now college freshmen, who gave them an inside look at navigating college as a student with special needs. Students also attended sessions presented by Greenville Technical College and members of the business sector for tips on how to look for a job, how to interview, and preparing for employment.
Shontia Gray, a 2015 graduate of Travelers Rest High School, was there to support her peers and let them know how she is navigating a debt-free path to college. “I’m filling out FAFSA, looking for scholarships, and I have a job. I hope to be in Greenville Tech by next fall,” she said. After Tech, she plans to pursue her interests in culinary arts or teaching. No matter how long it takes to achieve her dreams, Shontia said, “I would tell these students to never give up on themselves. Even if it takes some time, you can always get where you’re going.”
Southside High senior Dmitri Sanchez wants to follow in his uncle’s footsteps and join the Air Force. “To reach my goal, I have to take the initiative and be mentally prepared,” he said. “In high school, I was given the choice of two science classes. One was human biology, which is not needed to join the Air Force, or physics, which is something I will need in to be an Air Force pilot. I made the smart choice. It is somewhat difficult, but I think in the long run it will pay off.”
“I’ve learned that you should chase your dreams, no matter what,” said Tyerra Jordan, a senior from Southside High. “Going to college would be great for me. I want to be a computer technician and I would love to go to USC.”
A new session was added this year for parents to receive information about empowering their child. Jenise Lewis, the parent of a student who’s academically successful but has social and behavioral issues, said, “We want to protect our children. We don’t want them to be hurt. But at the same time it’s very enlightening and beautiful to see your child blossom. If we trust in all we’ve done for the last 18 years, we have to let them go and watch them do what they’re going to do. And hopefully, we’ve prepared them.”