Project LIFE


Maddie Arno

Have you ever wondered what special education students do after high school? While many students go to college after high school, special education students usually don’t have that ability. Instead, they participate in a wonderful program called Project LIFE.

Project LIFE is a comprehensive, multi-year transition program in which students develop, practice, and strengthen skills that are high predictors of increased adult independence and successful, integrated employment in the community. They basically help these students develop life skills and get entry-level jobs after they graduate. To get into this program, one must finish all of high school, apply, and then be interviewed. There are two levels to this program through Butler Tech: Project LIFE and Project Search. At Project LIFE, these students go to job sites part of the time and also do classroom life skills. They learn how to manage money, budget, and work behavior. Anything you need to know to be independent, they learn at Project LIFE. At Project Search, they spend most of their time at job sites working regularly. After two years of LIFE and one year of Search, then they are ready to go out into the world.

Sometimes they even get hired at the job they are doing in Search. My own brother, Logan Arno, was in Project Search and he worked at Atrium Medical Center as a dishwasher. Last April, at the peak of the pandemic, they hired him full-time. He is still working there and is doing well.

I got to talk to a couple of seniors that will be going into Project LIFE next year. Naima, Matthew, and Carmen all said that they were most excited about getting a new job and being able to learn at other places. 

This program is very successful in helping these students transition into the workforce. Without the ability to go to these programs and learn these necessary skills, many special needs kids are unable to get jobs right out of high school.