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Okaloosa County School District Students with Disabilities Graduate from Project SEARCH High School Transition Program

The Okaloosa County School District (OCSD) and Project SEARCH recognized the accomplishments of six students with disabilities who participated in a year-long internship with the Hilton Garden Inn on Okaloosa Island. The program is for students 18-21 years of age who completed high school credits necessary for graduation, and they have chosen to defer their diploma. The students are referred to the program through the school district to participate in the business-led collaboration that enables young adults with disabilities to gain and maintain employment through career exploration and on-the-job training. “This is what education is all about,” stated Superintendent Marcus Chambers. “Community engagement is one of the pillars we as a District stand by, and it’s about having a partnership with those in our community who can help our students.”

Participating students came from Silver Sands School, Fort Walton Beach High School, Crestview High School, and Laurel Hill School. A graduation ceremony was held on Tuesday, May 23, at the Hilton Garden Inn, where each student talked about their experiences working in various areas of the hotel that resulted in increased confidence, independence, self-esteem, and improved marketable job skills. Kathy Ard, ESE Director for OCSD, stated, “Project SEARCH is such a valuable venture that has prepared our students for the workforce in their community. The Hilton Garden Inn trainers and mentors have worked alongside our students to teach skills, build confidence, and create life experiences that will prepare them to be successful in work and life.” 

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