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West-MEC, Dysart District Partner On New Opportunity For Students With Disabilities

The Western Maricopa Education Center and Dysart school districts are partnering on a new program that will help prepare high school students with disabilities for the workforce. 

The new Transition, Opportunity and Pre-Employment Skills program, or TOPS for short, is a partnership between West-MEC, a career technical education public school district, and the Dysart Unified School District in the West Valley. In the program, students will learn soft skills as well as specific skills for jobs in industries such as IT, security, dental assistance and veterinary science. 

“This is to help people maybe get away from some of the typical jobs that we think of for people with disabilities you know food service, janitorial services — not that those are bad jobs but if that’s not somebody’s dream job then somebody with a disability has the same right as anybody else to pick what that dream job is," said Julia Anderson with West-MEC who designed the one-year course.

After learning these essentially skills, students will be able to explore three different career fields along with their certified special-education instructor. They will graduate from the program with a post-secondary goal to work toward. 

The member districts and West-MEC realized the need for career guidance for high school students with disabilities who do not plan on pursuing a traditional college degree. Our new program shows that a plethora of new opportunities await them through career and technical education," Anderson said.

Corey Montaño with the Dysart district said this will be a great opportunity for students that goes beyond the programming they already receive at their home schools.

“We know these kids have amazing abilities and strengths and this is a great way to tap into them," Montaño said. 

The program is set to begin this upcoming school year with 30 students in their last year of high school. The Dysart district will offer participants transportation to the West-MEC campus at no cost.

Rocio Hernandez was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2020 to 2022.