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October 30, 2021 |

#NDEAM: Helping Students with Disabilities Prepare for the Workforce

[May 12, 2021] “I love being around people and having chats while we are working,” said Chloe Gross, a Project Skills participant and intern in the Meals on Wheels kitchen.

This is Chloe’s third internship. She works 10 hours every week for Meals on Wheels, one two Project Skills teens helping to keep the kitchen, cooler and dishes sanitized. She also helps package meals.

Project Skills is a program funded by South Dakota’s Department of Vocational Rehabilitation to help students with disabilities, up to age 21, gain important on-the-job training and skills development, while employers enjoy dedicated interns to help with their day-to-day needs. The Rapid City School District works closely with Black Hills Works’ employment specialists to identify partner employers and to provide participating teens with the supports they need to be successful.

“The school district, Vocational Rehabilitation, and Black Hills Works are a collaborative team that have one goal in mind: Helping students with disabilities find a paid work experience in the community by finding their strengths, building their confidence and experience, and providing them the support needed to find permanent employment,” said Krista Inman, Special Education Program Specialist for the Rapid City Area Schools. “This partnership is an integral piece for our students to build a relationship with their community.”

For Meals on Wheels, getting involved with Project Skills helped fill a need in their kitchen.
“There are over 950 meals prepared out of this kitchen every weekday, and every day there are special requests from individuals or locations regarding the meals they are preparing,” said Jodi Litz, Development Specialist for Meals on Wheels. “It can be very stressful, but the kitchen staff never show it. This is a great team and Chloe fits right in. We’re thrilled to have this collaborative program!”
Cara Goodell, who manages the Meals on Wheels kitchen in Rapid City, agrees.

“This is our first experience with Project Sills and it has been very positive,” she said. “Black Hills Works and the school district has offered so much support. Chloe and Lori, our other student, have been so helpful. We are hoping they can stay on throughout the summer.”

When not working at Meals on Wheels, Chloe values her independence and is taking classes to further develop her life and social skills. Work at Meals on Wheels, however, is the highlight of each day. She knows that the work she does is helping seniors and others who rely on the meals provided Meals on Wheels. She also really enjoys her co-workers.

“They are like a family to me.”

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