College, school district leaders continue partnership to offer REACH program

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This article was published on The Brunswick News by Lauren McDonald on July 15, 2021.

Students in Glynn County Schools’ special education program will continue to benefit this year from a partnership the district has with College of Coastal Georgia that brings the students to the college campus to learn real-world skills they’ll take beyond graduation.

Representatives from CCGA and the school district signed Thursday a memorandum of understanding that extends their partnership for another year and continues the REACH program.

REACH, or Reaching Educational and Career Heights, is designed to meet the needs of special education students whose goal is to move from school to a work environment. They gain work skills and independent living skills in classrooms, community-based programs and work opportunities.

REACH is open to Glynn County students who have completed four years of high school, participated in a minimum of three years of job readiness training and are 18-21 years of age with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities.

The purpose of this program is to help students with disabilities function as independently as possible when they leave school.

“This is a great day to celebrate a partnership that has been going on since 2015,” said Michelle Johnston, president of the college, during a signing ceremony. “And it’s a partnership with the Glynn County school district and the College of Coastal Georgia that is working, and we can see that with the students and we can see that with their families.”

Johnston signed the agreement alongside Jason Umfress, vice president for student affairs and enrollment management at the college, Glynn County Schools’ superintendent Scott Spence and the district’s special education services and supports director Pam McKinnon.

The REACH program will be expanded this year to include more students and more opportunities on campus, McKinnon said.

“We’re looking forward to trying to get the program back to normal this year, with an expansion in the opportunities for learning pre-vocational, job-related skills and developing social skills through their involvement and activities in the college,” she said.

The program aims to help special education students transition into more independent living after they complete high school.

They gain job skills they can put toward later employment, McKinnon said, and they’re able to experience the college campus environment.

“That’s why the social piece of it is so important, because it’s offering an opportunity for them that is embraced by the college that they wouldn’t normally have,” she said. “We’re fortunate in this area to have a college to be able to offer this program.”

Experiential learning is a key focus at CCGA, Johnston said, and the REACH program is a natural extension of that kind of learning opportunity for local high school students.

“It fits so well with what our mission is for our entire student population,” Johnston said.

McKinnon said she’s glad to see the partnership with the college continue.

“It’s just a great partnership,” she said. “I talk to other director of special education in other areas that don’t have colleges in their community, and they love this concept, the idea for this program, and wish that they could do something like this. We’ve very fortunate in that way.”