The transition from high school to the world of work can be daunting for any young person. But students with disabilities may find it particularly challenging. As they leave the safe, nurturing environment of their school and step out into the unknown and into their first job, they need skills to obtain and keep a job, live independently, and be a part of their community. That’s where STEPS (Student Transition Educational Program Services) comes in. The program offers a bridge to transition from school to life on their own.

Through classes and internships, STEPS participants gain skills in daily living, communication, self-advocacy, and employability. They learn how to apply for a job, create a resume, attend an interview, look professional, arrive on time using public transportation and use a cell phone, which is provided through the program. They also learn meal preparation, good hygiene, communication and social skills.

Partnerships with local businesses provide a wide variety of internship opportunities, including food service and preparation, retail, health and fitness, hospitality, information services, childcare, environmental services, screen printing and automotive services.

Based in Longview, the three-year program currently serves 17 students ages 18-21 from Castle Rock, Kalama, Longview, Ridgefield, Toutle Lake and Wahkiakum school districts. Currently in its fourth year, students have participated in 46 internships and 1,500 hours of training. Two of the graduates are competitively employed in Longview.

STEPS participants are referred by their school districts at the age of 17 so that they may begin participating at the age of 18. Each student has a transition plan that focuses on employment, training, and independent living goals. Students leave STEPS with a transition notebook, resume, and a real experience in the world of work.