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Twelve Plus students work to repair holiday lights for city of LaGrange

LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton and Council Mark Mitchell visited New Ventures Tuesday afternoon to check in on a program aimed at employing Troup County School System students.

The school system’s Exceptional Education program has partnered with New Ventures to open classroom space for Twelve Plus students. The program is for special education students who have already earned all their high school credits. However, since the law allows those with disabilities to stay in high school until 22 years old, the school system wanted to provide a program to develop workforce development skills.

The program was created when Mitchell, LaGrange City Manager Meg Kelsey and New Ventures CEO Mike Wilson got together to provide a working opportunity for the students, while also spending time in the classroom. The partnership between Troup County School System and New Ventures was reestablished after a meeting at the 2019 Special Olympics, according to Wilson.

“There was a recognized need for the Twelve Plus students to have less classroom time and more work opportunities, and New Ventures was eager to help,” a news release from New Ventures said. “The goal is to continue their education while also teaching basic work skills

needed for successful employment.”

This year, the group is working on repairing holiday lights throughout LaGrange.

Wilson said New Ventures received 115 lights for repair, which the students work on for about an hour each day and spend time in the classroom.

“The 115 lights that were delivered here allows them to spread that work out probably the rest of the semester,” he said.

Thornton said the program is excellent for everybody involved.

“It gives these young adults a great opportunity to do work to continue their education,” he said. “I think it’s a win-win because obviously, they’re able to work and learn skills, and at the same time to benefit the city through the placement of the lights and decoration.”

Mitchell said he was glad the project is in full swing.

“It’s good to see how they are going with this project, and it’s just good to see the city and New Ventures working together,” he said.

Kitty Crawford, director of the exceptional education program at TCSS, said there are eight students in the program.

She said many times after special education students complete the high-school curriculum, they go back to their high school and take classes they have already taken before.

“This gives them a chance to be in a workforce environment and to help them get those skills that they need,” Crawford said.

She said the school system continues to encourage local businesses to employ and work with students with disabilities. Also, she said once those students are employed, they no longer have to be in school.

“The ultimate goal is for them to be employed,” Crawford said.