One of the goals of the McDuffie County school system is to prepare students for life and train them to become productive citizens.
Because that goal is not limited to a select few, the school system took advantage of government stimulus funds this year to hire a transition coach for special education students.
Debbie Price, the director of Exceptional Children's Services in McDuffie County, said the transition coach will help students after they graduate to apply for secondary schools or secure a job. The coach also will oversee the student's progress in his new position for the first year out of school.
Ms. Price said the transition plan is developed by the student, his parents, teachers and the coach.
"Ideally, we work through middle school and high school to come up with the plan for what's after high school, so we can be planning what courses they need to take to get the correct credentials and just be prepared to move directly from school into whatever's next," said Jacquelyn Watson, the new transition coach for McDuffie County Schools.
The transition plan has been in place for a few years, Ms. Watson said, but handled by various case managers.
"I'm hoping because I have more time to devote to transition and working with those students to connect them with the agencies and employers, that we'll have more students going into jobs," she said.
Ms. Watson came from the Department of Labor where she was the vocational rehabilitation counselor.
If the students have had a good plan in place that involved their families and the appropriate agencies, Ms. Watson said finding their next step after graduation shouldn't be a difficult task. But she added the economic downturn and high unemployment rate will make it tougher.
"There's a lot of obstacles in our way," Ms. Price said. "And now there's an economy that's not real good and a lot of people looking for work. So, we'll just have to work double-hard."
Since she started a few weeks ago, Ms. Watson said she has received a phone call from someone who had been out of school for a while who was seeking agencies that could assist them in finding a job, or some type of referral.
"They received assistance and referrals when they were in high school, so that was the first place they called was the school system to see what is available," Ms. Watson said. "So schools have been assisting students for a long time, now."
Ms. Watson said there are approximately 200 middle and high school students in Special Education in the county.