South Texas College, in partnership with the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services Division for Rehabilitation Services, is embarking in a new grant-funded program to help disabled students achieve college and career success.
The program, which is titled “Project HIRE” is geared at ensuring students have access to college, get through college and achieve success through job placement after earning their degree. It is funded by a $225,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Development Disabilities, as well as an additional $31,425 from non-federal resources.
“We are starting with a cohort of seven students and we will add new students each semester,” said Paul Hernandez, dean of student support services for STC. “At STC we are known for our open access and creating opportunities for disabled students. Each semester we service more than 200 students through our Disability Support Program and we do everything possible to ensure these students get the help they need to reach their goal of graduation. Now we are extending that through job placement.”
Some of the services STC currently provides include note taking/lecture notes, sign language interpretation, readers and/or scribes, class materials in large print or Braille, extended time for tests, alternate test sites or formats, and counseling, just to name a few. Also, the college’s campus locations and teaching sites are designed to provide full access to disabled students.
Through the grant, each participant will have a liaison that will personally track their progress from admission to STC through to the attainment of an associate’s degree, then through a bachelor’s program or job placement.
“In addition to our normal services, the participants will also receive a laptop computer and other needed assistive technology, training in life skills and financial management, a business mentor, assistance with securing internships and many other benefits,” explained Hernandez. “Our goal is to not just help them graduate, but put the proof in the pudding, which is getting a good paying job in the field to which they earned their degree. This program is a way to ensure disabled students don’t fall through the cracks of society; at STC we make a lifelong commitment to helping our students and their families secure a better life. This is an extension of that mission.”
In addition to STC and DARS, The University of Texas-Pan American, Workforce Solutions, Access Granted Technology Services, and the Communication Access Ability Group of South Texas are also partners in the grant, handling different facets of the program.
“This grant is a wonderful example of how a community of partners can come together by sharing expertise and resources to reach a common goal,” said Jim Hanophy, DRS assistant commissioner. “The project’s focus to help these students advance their education and find gainful employment will serve as a model for development for similar projects across the state.”
In all, 50 students will initially benefit from the program in the first five years, with the hope of expanding the program in the future. For additional information about STC’s Disability Support Services call 956-872-2530 or 956-872-8372.