The Shamrock Project is a school transition program for young adults with disabilities from ages 18 to 22 through Westfield Washington Schools.
The City of Westfield and Westfield Washington Schools secured a grant for $53,255 through the Indiana Office of Community & Rural Affairs to implement a disability grant program. Indiana Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch visited the team Jan. 26 to discuss the program and meet the students participating.
“Most everyone here has a certificate of completion, but you can come to the program with a diploma,” said Melissa Rhodes, the teacher for the Shamrock Project. “We are transitioning the young adults to the world of work and provide them with the skills that they need to maintain employment. We’ve found a lot of times with the population that they can get a job, but it’s tough for them to keep it because their soft skills are not necessarily what they need to be.”
Soft skills include dealing with co-workers.
“Just because something comes out in your head doesn’t mean it should come out in your mouth,” Rhodes said. “We also work on independent living skills. We have a kitchen, washer and dryer. We’re basically preparing them for when they leave our program, they could leave independently with support. We meal plan and we cook.”
Rhodes, a special education teacher, is joined by two job coaches – one full time and one part time — who are paid through the grant.
Rhodes said the students, who are called interns, have part-time employment as part of the program. The goal is to have 16 to 20 hours a week for the interns, which Rhodes said depends on the students’ stamina. The program is for Westfield residents.
“We feel very supportive of this community,” Rhodes said.
The group, which includes seven this school year, works on skills such as how to read a paycheck stub and note the difference between gross and net income. They also learn how to file taxes. The day runs from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., depending on transportation from Hamilton County Express.
“Transportation is a huge impediment to employment for this group,” Rhodes said.
Rhodes said one of the young adults was taking it personally when customers were rude to him.
“I told him you don’t know what is going on with their life, they might be having a bad day,” she said. “I said, ‘You just have to kill them with kindness.’”
This is the fifth year of the program and everyone in the program is no longer in high school.
“In the state of Indiana, individuals with disabilities are able to be educated from age 3 to age 22,” she said. “We will have four young adults exiting this spring because they will be aging out. They will be 22 before the next school year starts. Everyone here has received their certificate of completion, which is an alternative to a diploma.”