The Program for Employment Preparedness (PEP) is dedicated to helping high schoolers with mild to moderate disabilities learn workplace readiness skills so they can be prepared for the workforce.
One of the many things that PEP does to achieve this is taking students out to local businesses and letting them obtain real-world experience through internships. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, students go and intern at local businesses. The PEP program partners with over 35 different local businesses, so there is a wide variety of opportunities for a PEP student . This allows for each internship to be individualized for the student. This way, a student who is good at working with electronics might do work with a company that specializes in computers. While the students gain hands-on experience, the local businesses obtain the skills and talent from each of the students.
The internships also teach the students self-determination and responsibility. Micah Stein-Verbit, a PEP coordinator, says, “For the first time, many of them have a supervisor, they have coworkers, they have expectations, jobs to complete, and it gives them experience on how to handle certain situations when they come up.” Stein-Verbit also says, “Now if we have students who look like they could be hired […] then we may encourage them to stay there longer if it could lead to a job.”
Students also mature while they are in internships. Christina Eagle, says, “There’s a huge difference from when [the students] first come to us, to when they leave.” As students develop life skills and build their future, they go through countless hours of training to ensure their confidence in their fields.
Overall, students learn new skills, gain opportunities, and obtain real-world experience through PEP. They learn how to advocate for themselves and their rights, which helps the students mature and grow. In the future, the program will continue to expand and thrive. The PEP program assists students to not only develop life skills but develop as a person and individual.