Partnership Helps Students Focus On Future

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - What started as a one-year grant is now nearing 20 years of giving young people a chance to explore the working world.

The Vocational Intervention Project is a partnership between Topeka Public Schools, Stormont-Vail HealthCare and Heartland Works. It gives students who might otherwise lose their way an opportunity to focus on their futures.

Project Director Marcy Glassman approached Stormont's former CEO Howard Chase about the program 20 years ago. The idea was to give high school juniors and seniors hands-on experience in the workforce and, thanks to a grant through Heartland Works, they get a paycheck, too.

Glassman says Stormont seemed a natural fit because there is such a range of work for students to experience. Students are placed in areas from surgery to housekeeping, reception, dietary care, gift shop, groundskeeping, technology, catering and more.

Counselors recommend students for the program. Those chosen are not special education students or even necessarily at-risk. Glassman says they're students who show responsibility and desire, but it doesn't translate into their grades because they need a hands-on experience to make the lessons stick. Real-world employment traits, such as excellent attendance and punctuality, are a must.

The program takes about 25 students a year and proudly boasts a 99 percent graduation rate among its students.

The program plans a celebration reunion with its 400-plus alums when it marks its 20-year anniversary in February.