Friday, May 23, 2008

Grant Establishes Pilot Landscape Program at Fayette County High

An $8,000 SkillsUSA Lowe’s Education/Chapter Improvement Grant will help fund the school system’s first-ever landscape management program for students with mild cognitive disabilities.

The grant was awarded to Fayette County High teacher Tina DeCotis who submitted a proposal for the program earlier this year. The school will use the funds to purchase mowers, blowers and trimmers, as well as provide integrated safety training, to special needs students who are interested in pursuing careers in landscape maintenance.

The program will begin in the fall and will be the first of its kind for the school system. DeCotis says she hopes that once the program gets underway, it can be implemented at other schools in the county.

“Once initiated, local and state education representatives will be invited to observe the program in the hope of expanding it to other schools and offering similar opportunities to intellectually disabled students,” she says.

The new program will complement the school’s community based vocational instruction program where students are placed at job sites around the county to gain real world working experience and skills. Students mainly work in restaurants and grocery stores where maintenance and stocking shelves are the primary duties. Now, students will have an additional opportunity to further expand their skill sets to a field where jobs are growing.

“My ultimate goal is to give these students the opportunity to become independent contributing members of society without any need for public assistance after they transition into the workforce after graduation,” DeCotis says.

The program will be open to interested students whose ability levels enable them to perform essential duties associated with landscape maintenance and whose parents give permission for them to participate.

Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation awards grants of up to $10,000 each to SkillsUSA chapters for innovative projects or program enhancements at their schools. The grants are designed to further the SkillsUSA program at local schools, provide awareness of technical careers and training opportunities and highlight the good work that SkillsUSA is doing.

SkillsUSA is a national nonprofit organization of students, teachers and industry, working together to ensure America has a skilled work force. SkillsUSA helps high school and college students enrolled in career and technical education programs to excel by teaching employability skills such as communication, problem solving and leadership in conjunction with their trade, technical and service occupations skills.

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