VR3: Making a Difference
Q1, Quality One, Quality happens one person at a time
VR3  Ready...Reliable...Results August 2015

Summer opportunities abound for transition students

“This year I get to be in charge and I like that a lot,” says Shelley Ann Jeffers.

Shelley’s attention is focused on a group of about ten students who are participating in a team building exercise as part of the Youth Leadership Forum. She's making sure that everyone is following instructions and calling out encouragement.

Last year, she was one of the students attending the three-day leadership program for high school juniors and seniors with disabilities. She returned this year as a peer leader.

Photo: Shelley Ann Jeffers leads a session at YLF.

“My dream has always been to be a teacher,” Shelley says with a big smile. “My favorite thing is helping people be positive and be a good leader.”

Thirty-six students from around the state are attending YLF. For some, this is the first time they’ve been away from home on their own. It’s also the first time many of them have been on a college campus. They are staying in the dorms at Columbia College and attending classes which helps them develop career and life goals, leadership and social skills, and self-esteem.

Large group activities get everyone involved and small group activities provide more one-on-one interaction. The students quickly build lasting friendships with each other and the staff. They also attend a mentor luncheon, where they get to meet and network with people in career fields they are interested in. This year’s mentors include a television producer, a chef, an information technology networking and software engineer, a lawyer, and a veterinarian.

“YLF is a big family,” says Adam Kirkland. He’s been with YLF for eight years, first as a delegate for two years, then as a mentor, and for the past two years as a staff member. “It’s helped me move forward in my life, become a stronger person, and be a leader.”

This year is also YLF’s tenth anniversary in South Carolina. The program has grown and expanded since its start in 2006.

A highlight each year is the field trip to the ropes course at the Wil Lou Gray Opportunity School. The students challenge themselves mentally and physically and encourage each other in a variety of activities that culminate in going down a zip line.

“It’s only 42 feet high, but you look over and it’s like 200 feet,” says Miguel Velert, a graduate of Florence Christian High School. “And then you drop and you feel like you’re never going to stop until the line takes your weight and you start going forward.”

Photo: Adam Kirkland steadies the ladder as Miguel Velert prepares to climb.

Miguel, who uses a wheelchair, will be starting at Francis Marion University this fall. He plans to study political science and has an interest in public service. He also wants to come back to YLF next year as a peer leader.

“The best thing is how everyone was encouraging each other,” he says. “I enjoyed this a lot.”

“I never get tired of seeing the difference in the students between when they arrive and when they leave. YLF really helps them get out of their comfort zone a bit,” says Laura Spears, VR Transition Services Coordinator and Chairperson of the YLF Committee. “You see a lot of growth in three days. They are around peers who have the same types of issues, they learn they can be away from home and be fine, and they gain confidence.”

She also praises the volunteer staff for their enthusiasm and excitement each year. “We’ve become like a family.”

Austin “Nemo” Thompson learned how to be a belayer on the ropes course. A belayer maintains tension on a safety rope so that a climber does not fall very far.

“Everybody needs a belay,” he says smiling. “Everybody needs support. That’s my new motto.”

This is Nemo’s second year at YLF. His goal is to get a degree in counseling and become a counselor in the Air Force.

“This is a great opportunity to meet new people and make myself a better leader,” he says. “I wake up everyday with a purpose and a plan. I want to show that people with disabilities can do something amazing.”


“I learned I have lots of courage,” says Emily Harmon about her experiences during the Summer Transition Evaluation Program for Students (STEPS) at the Evaluation Center in Columbia.

Photo: Miracle Stivender walks across the catwalk at the Wil Lou Gray Opportunity School ropes course.

Through a variety of activities and classes, students learned how to prepare for college, manage their time and finances, network, social media dos and don’ts, study skills, and resume writing. They also participated in physical and occupational therapy and went on outings that included a Lexington County Blowfish baseball game, movies, and the ropes course at the Wil Lou Gray Opportunity School.

“I conquered my fear of heights because everyone encouraged me,” says Miracle Stivender about the ropes course.

Guest speakers included former clients who presented “10 things you should know for college if you have a disability” and “10 things you should know about working if you have a disability.”

The students summed up the STEPS program by saying that VR is “full of encouragement,” “fun,” a great place to “learn about becoming independent,” and “very welcoming.”

“It’s great to hear them say how they will use what they learned here when they go to college or to work,” says Brittany Jenson, a physical therapy aide who worked with the students. “Our goal was to make everything educational and fun. They said they can’t wait to come back next year.”


Attendees at the Bryant Center’s Summer Program for Transition Students participated in physical therapy, learned independent living skills and took part in simulated work experiences in occupational therapy. They gained confidence and built self esteem while learning leadership, teamwork, communication, and self-advocacy skills. They explored post-secondary and career interests, and gained job preparedness skills through mock interviews.

Back Row (left to right): Clients Freddie Cook (Bryant Center), Savannah Rollins (Spartanburg), and Rebecca Dobbins (Bryant Center); Chasie Coley, Miss Lyman 2015 (guest speaker); clients Bryce Mitchell (Spartanburg), Xavien Miller (Bryant Center), Christopher Gambrell (Anderson), and Dyquan Williams (Bryant Center)
Front Row (left to right): Clients Adelina Domingo-Mateo (Greenville), Madison Lyon (Spartanburg), Jessica Lyme (Spartanburg), Trey Bridwell (Bryant Center), and Erik Hackney (Bryant Center).


Students attending the Summer Institute at the Anderson Office on July 27-28 toured the Glen Raven Custom Fabrics plant, a major manufacturer of Sunbrella fabrics. In addition to gaining an understanding of the manufacturing world and the requirements for working in such a facility, they were able to see the types of jobs that may be available to them.

The students also toured the Oconee Nuclear Station, located on Lake Keowee near Seneca. They learned about the variety of careers available in the nuclear energy field and the educational requirements.

Photo: Transition students tour the Oconee Nuclear Station.


The Williamsburg Area Transition Team had a successful Summer Institute July 7-9. The theme was “Transition Making Waves.”

Each day was packed with activities and presentations. Students were able to bring out their artistic skills and participate with their peers.

Activities included “Where Will I Be in 6 Years,” a collage of their future aspirations; “Dress for Success,” where staff modeled appropriate dress for interviews and various work environments; “Educated Rap Session,” about teamwork and team building; and the “Hidden Talent Showcase,” in which students displayed artwork they created or presented unique skills and abilities.

Williamsburg Technical College, a community resource partner, provided valuable information for those students seeking post secondary training. A representative for the South Carolina State University Educational Opportunity Center provided information on financial sources and scholarships.

The Summer Institute concluded with a “College Prep Day.” Current college students shared their experiences about their first year in college, about self-sufficiency and advocacy.

Students and staff enjoyed the positive energy throughout the three day event and look forward to next year’s Summer Institute.

Forty students attended a Summer Transition Job Fair on June 24 at the Williamsburg Area Office and Work Training Center.

Local employers provided information on current job opportunities in the Williamsburg area. The Department of Juvenile Justice took applications for a job training program geared toward providing work experiences. TD Bank offered information on budgeting to help the students improve their self-sufficiency. During the job fair, VR counselors assisted students with online applications.

VR clients from the work training center also attended the job fair and applied for employment.


During the 2015 Summer Institute at the Lexington Area Office, from June 22-July 10, high school students explored the services offered at VR’s West Columbia campus. As they toured the campus they learned about evaluation and assessment, physical and occupational therapy, rehabilitation technology and the variety of opportunities offered through Information Technology Training.

During Career Awareness Day, representatives from Blue Cross Blue Shield, Scott’s Automotive and Waffle House discussed their businesses, positions they were hiring for and what they look for in potential candidates. They also heard from entrepreneur Robert Burgess who spoke about what it takes to start and own a business.

Penny Rehme, from Blue Cross Blue Shield, conducted mock interviews with the students, providing feedback to help them learn what to do and what not to do during an interview.

The students also toured Riverbanks Zoo and explored the variety of career options available as well as learning about the animals and new attractions coming to the zoo. Other tours included Midlands Technical College and the State House. Finally, the students participated in volunteer experiences at Habitat for Humanity and Pawmetto Life Line.

Around the state

First Project SEARCH graduates

Congratulations to the Project Search interns who successfully completed the first program in South Carolina.

Spartanburg Regional Medical Center hosted a recognition ceremony for the interns on May 26, 2015. In addition, community and business partners, including School District 6, the Workforce Investment Board, Spartanburg Vocational Rehabilitation, Spartanburg Regional Medical Center and Dorman High School, received a framed picture signed by each intern.

More than 90 family members and guests attended and celebrated the ceremony.

Project SEARCH serves people with disabilities through an innovative workforce and career development model that benefits the individual, workplace, and community.

Rock Hill student sets sights on Think College program

Fort Mill High School senior Matt Kjeldsen will attend Winthrop University’s Think College Program, which offers post-secondary education opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities.

"Big Matt," as he’s known, played varsity basketball for the Fort Mill Yellowjackets, and wants to intern with the basketball program at Winthrop.

Matt, who is autistic, attended VR’s Rock Hill Work Training Center, where he participated in a variety of transition activities including Disability Mentoring Day and the Summer Institute. Through job readiness training, he learned resume writing and interviewing skills which will help him in his future career endeavors.

“He’s the person you want to have on your team,” says Brittany Bostick, Transition Counselor. “He is always willing to try things, and he wants to get the job done.”

Watch highlights of “Big Matt” playing for the Fort Mill Yellowjackets. The video is introduced by Stephen Curry, 2015 National Basketball Association Most Valuable Player, who plays for the Golden State Warriors.

1st Annual Food Drive for AIM

The Anderson office recently held their first annual food drive for the Anderson Interfaith Ministries (AIM). AIM provides food and other resources to those in need. Staff filled numerous boxes with food items and presented them to AIM on for use with their Summer Food 4 Kids program on June 29.



ServSafe certified in Williamsburg

Three VR clients earned ServSafe certification at a training conducted by a representative from Clemson Cooperative Extension Service on June 17. ServSafe is a food and beverage safety training and certificate program.

Q Quotes

Good habits formed at youth make all the difference.


Did you know...

...that July marked the 25th anniversary of the signing into law of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

The ADA is one of America’s most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life—to enjoy employment opportunities, to purchase goods and services, and to participate in State and local government programs and services.

Find more information at ada.gov.


October 14-16 - SCVRA Annual Meeting at Embassy Suites-Greenville, 670 Verdae Boulevard, Greenville, SC 29607.
  For more information, visit scvra.net

Preparing and assisting eligible South Carolinians with disabilities to achieve and maintain competitive employment

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