MARYVILLE, Mo. — In a partnership that each organization is excited to expand further this summer, eight Nodaway County high schoolers are taking part in a program to get real-world work experience.

The partnership, between Maryville Parks and Recreation and AbilityKC, a Kansas City-based operation that provides opportunities for children and adults with disabilities, matches high school students with disabilities to work opportunities in their community.

In its fourth year of participating in the program, MPR has distinguished itself as a leading partner in the county. This year, the number of students working during the summer at MPR doubled, from four to eight.

“Most of the time, they’ve never worked before, this is their first job,” said employment training specialist Beth Zech, who oversees the students for AbilityKC while they’re working at MPR. “So they learn how to get along with other students from different (schools).”

The students come from across the county, and work on a wide variety of maintenance projects throughout their six weeks in the program, putting in five hours a day, four days a week.

Students are referred by their counselors to AbilityKC, which links them up with work sites. But just like any other job, they  still have to go through an interview process and get hired.

Maintenance supervisor Steve Griffith, who has overseen each year of the program from MPR’s side, has consistently spoken highly of initiative, and was pleased to tell the MPR board in May that AbilityKC was sending more students.

In addition to on-the-job training, Zech also does classroom work with the students, teaching job skills like communication, attitude, teamwork, networking and professional expectations.

“It just helps introduce them to different skills and what kinds of skills (employers) expect out of the students,” she said.

Zech said that although the program has expanded this year at MPR, she anticipates more students to take part next year as more opportunities come up at other workplaces. But the need is there, whether or not the opportunities arise.

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