Spotlight Virginia



CTI is now highlighting innovative practices in Virginia. Check out the video "Customized Employment" to learn how a partnership between school, DARS, and employment services organization personnel resulted in a job being created for Sean at Barnes and Noble.

Spotlight Virginia nominations are now being accepted. For additional information and the nomination form please click here.


Featured Spotlight

Cumberland High School


Senior, Andrew Smith, completed his Senior Project internship 
					at the Cumberland County Volunteer Fire Department during the 2019-2020 school year.

Cumberland High School provides each senior with the opportunity to complete a Senior Project. This mandatory one credit course has been a part of the curriculum for over twenty years, and is an inclusive project required for all seniors. The Senior Project allows students to explore their future career field or achieve their passion projects throughout their last year of high school. Senior Project components include:

  • Research on a career of their choice
  • Completed internship or a project
  • Community-based mentorships
  • Entrepreneurship opportunities
  • Presentation on knowledge gained to faculty, staff, and community members.

Led by Senior Project Instructor, Mrs. Rebecca Haigh, and Senior Project Coordinator, Mr. Todd Meinhard, their focus is on helping students develop the skills they need to advocate for themselves in their lives after high school. Mrs. Haigh teaches the students how to write a research paper on their Senior Project topic and to write a resume in English class. Mr. Meinhard schedules mock interviews between students and faculty members and coordinates the presentations with the senior class and the panel of judges who listen to the students' presentations in May. By graduation, many seniors secure summer jobs with the businesses that helped them, or they obtain their first real jobs in a career they have always wanted. These employment outcomes are key indicators of the program’s success!

Connection to Post-School Predictors

Mrs. Haigh and Mr. Meinhard commit themselves to teaching students the skills needed for the career of their choice. Senior Project is a journey; it is one that students take to engage in the 5 C's of learning (communication, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and citizenship). Through the Senior Project, Haigh and Meinhard teach seniors interview and presentation skills, provide students with opportunities to explore career pathways and foster career awareness, and develop vital community experiences benefiting the students, the school, and the community.

Expand Your Knowledge

Understanding Internships

For More Information

Rebecca Haigh

Todd Meinhard

Previous Spotlights

Virginia Beach and DARS


Scott Jones standing with five of the students that he employs.

The Virginia Beach and DARS partnership at Ocean Lakes High School is an exemplary collaborative interagency model providing complementary transition services to transition-age youth with disabilities.

They work collaboratively to improve the post-school outcomes through:

  • Open and regular communication in sharing student’s progress towards employment and postsecondary goals.
  • Collaborative efforts in developing a plan for pre-employment and transition service delivery.
  • Implementation of strategies that facilitate effective transition services and eliminate duplication of services.

Neither the schools nor DARS can do it alone. Working in collaboration with partners creates a team working together to improve the outcomes of students with disabilities.

Connection to Post-School Predictors

Working collaboratively, Ocean Lakes High School and Norfolk DARS office demonstrate and provide students with a variety of predictors of post-school success including: career awareness, community experiences, interagency collaboration, and paid employment. A highlight of their collaboration is the Start on Success program, which provides students working toward a standard or advanced standard diploma with work-based instruction and a paid internship.

Expand Your Knowledge

How can school and agency personnel work together to support smooth transitions for these students?

For More Information

Rebecca Strohm

Rodrick Curry

Mr. Scott Jones


Scott Jones standing with five of the students that he employs.

Mr. Scott Jones is recognized for his outstanding collaboration, leadership, and advocacy in promoting and supporting the employment of individuals with disabilities. Mr. Jones, the General Manager of the Delta Hotels by Marriott in Richmond, is an employer who understands the benefits of diversifying a workforce. He is committed to promoting inclusivity through his hiring practices and recognizes the value of partnering with schools and other agencies in providing students and adults with meaningful work experiences. Mr. Jones has worked closely with Richmond Public Schools, the Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired, and various employment services organizations in the implementation of school to work programs including, most recently, Start on Success. He recognizes and utilizes the unique contributions of his employees, including student interns, and focuses on their abilities rather than inabilities. During a recent presentation to educators and agency personnel, Mr. Jones spoke about developing work experiences and employment opportunities. He offered tips on how to approach businesses and, throughout the 45-minute session, did not discuss challenges or barriers. The following statement sums up his philosophy, "Employees with disabilities are two things: productive and they give other employees something powerful to learn." His capacity to see employees' abilities lifts his entire staff to excellence and, in turn, changes attitudes and perceptions. Mr. Jones' leadership also expands to the community as he is a visionary within his profession. He advocates and encourages other businesses to follow in his footsteps in hiring a diverse workforce. He is on multiple community and state councils and is always promoting the benefits of partnering with school divisions and other agencies. He challenges these councils and associations to see what they are missing in their hiring practices. The efforts of Scott Jones truly make a difference in valuing abilities, changing attitudes, and providing meaningful work experiences in a supportive environment.

Connection to Post-School Predictors

Mr. Jones provides a positive learning environment for meaningful work experiences with students engaged in both Paid Employment/Work Experiences and Work Study programs at the Delta Hotel. He also demonstrates, models, and teaches, and has high expectations for Social Skills from himself and all his employees.

Expand Your Knowledge

Respect Ability

U.S. Department of Labor: Hiring People with Disabilities

For More Information

Delta Hotel Richmond, VA

Start on Success

Central High School Transition Program's Designers Gift Shop


CHS Designers gift shop with the students work for sale.

Lunenburg County Public School's Central High School Transition Program has a strong and focused leader in Lena Hipps-Clarke. She assisted students in developing a small business within the school called the Designers Gift Shop. Students create handmade wreaths, jewelry, and soap to market and sell to faculty, staff, and parents. Students use their creative ideas to market the products with the assistance of the CTE Marketing Teacher. Other students participating in the CHS Transition Program work with the librarian and office staff performing clerical duties, job shadow the custodians and assist with vacuuming the rugs, wiping down water fountains, and sweeping their classroom floors. Students also work with the Lunenburg Chamber of Commerce on community projects showcasing their talents by composing brochures, flyers, artwork for posters, and ushering for community events.

Mrs. Hipps-Clarke further enhances students' opportunities as the President of the Heartland Transition Council. She works with the DARS representative and other transition coordinators from seven counties to develop programs to assist students with disabilities. She is instrumental in the planning of transition activities and events including an annual transition fair to assist the parents and students in their planning for employment. Mrs. Hipps-Clarke wears many hats as she works to prepare the students of Lunenburg County to excel in their future endeavors.

Connection to Post-School Predictors

Central High School Transition Program provides students with the opportunity to build Career Awareness in a student-run enterprise, Designers Gift Shop, and various work-based learning opportunities in their school and community. The CHS Transition Program also offers students Vocational Education related to marketing. Student engage in CTE course work enhancing their skills and knowledge to effectively market and provide retail service for the student-led Designers Gift Shop.

For More Information

Lena Hipps-Clarke - (Transition Coordinator at Central High School)

Natalie Cornas - (CTE Coordinator)

Lunenburg County Public Schools

Troy Carter and VCU's ACE-IT College Program

Troy at graduation ceremony. Troy Carter's story is one of perseverance. As long as he could remember he wanted to attend college. Following high school, he participated in programming at Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center and other job-focused programming, but he still dreamed of attending and finishing a college program. With the assistance of his aunt he discovered VCU's ACE-IT College Program. Troy, a recent graduate of VCU, is now making his mark on the community and country. As a presenter, advocate and role-model, Troy has sought and created opportunity. During his involvement with the VCU ACE-IT in College program he participated in inclusive classes with peers without disabilities. In these classes he's served Richmond's Highland Park community, met L Douglas Wilder, cleaned the James River and modeled the use of assistive technology to actively participate in classes such as Visual Media and Race (AFAM 491). While attending classes Troy also held part-time jobs on campus at the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center and the Office of Continuing and Professional Education. Recently, after completing an internship at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Troy was hired by the Richmond Region Visitors Center. However, Troy continues to strive for excellence in his quest for independence. He is currently pursuing his driver's license in order to gain independence and flexibility in furthering his career. Troy has also become a sought-after public speaker sharing his story at VCU Open House and serving as mentor and speaker at the MOVE conference that is dedicated to empowering African American males with disabilities to become self-determined and prepared for college and careers. Last summer he was the keynote speaker at the Maryland Inclusive Higher Education Collaborative hosted by Towson University. The group met to develop meaningful college opportunities in Maryland for students with intellectual disability, and in his address Troy shared how others often inadvertently tried to limit his future aspirations to janitorial work. However, he said that VCU has allowed him to find his "true self", someone worthy of respect, friendship and the right to dream big. Following his address, Troy checked into his hotel where the clerk inquired about the reason for Troy's visit as well as his area of study. Troy mentioned his address and that he was "taking African American History." The clerk looked at Troy and said, "M-A-K-I-N-G. You are making African American history, and it is an honor to have you stay at our hotel this evening."

Connection to Post-School Predictors
Troy's self-advocacy and self-determination, and his efforts and work to expand his voice are paramount in his transition to college and employment. He also greatly benefitted academically and socially from the inclusive general education available to him through ACE-IT. His work skills and employment prospects were also enhanced through his paid employment/work experience during his internship with the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

Expand Your Knowledge
Website: Think College

Richmond Times Dispatch article: Students with disabilities ACE-IT at VCU

For More Information

ACE-IT in College -

Secondary Transition to Employment Program (STEP)

Fairfax County Schools' Secondary Transition to Employment Program (STEP) aims to provide instruction for students who have completed their academic requirements but would benefit from further instruction focused on the employability and independent living skills needed to become productive, engaged citizens in their communities upon graduation. STEP, a postsecondary program, incorporates work-based learning to provide students with relevant, practical experience in entry level employment situations. An instructional component is provided at three Fairfax County schools: Chantilly High School, Mount Vernon High School, and South Lakes High School. The instruction, focusing on work-based learning, increases their readiness for life after graduation. In conjunction with the transition curriculum, students participate in a variety of community based work experiences. Some of the innovative sites where students work include the United States Geological Survey and the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority at Dulles International Airport. Other sites include hotels, government offices, restaurants, and gyms. Since its inception, 85% of students who exited the program entered directly into paid employment or further career training.

Connection to Post-School Predictors
Through the STEP Program's instructional and work-based components, students learn and apply several predictors of post-school success including career awareness, community experiences, and paid employment. STEP provides students with career awareness through exposure to careers and helps them to hone their postsecondary goals and as they develop their strengths, interests, and skills and develop attributes outlined in the Fairfax County Public Schools Portrait of a Graduate initiative. The STEP program partners with over 40 businesses to provide community experiences and paid employment to students.

Expand Your Knowledge
Secondary Transition to Employment Program (STEP) Website

For More Information

Ann Long -

Trevor Christensen -

Twitter: @FCPS_CTS

Video: School Board Spotlight - STEP Program

Video: School On the Job at Dulles Airport - Secondary Transition to Employment

Video: School STEP Jobs Training Program at Chantilly HS

Community Independence Instruction (CII) Program

Community Independence Instruction Program.

Occupational therapy and elementary-age children aren't always associated with transition. That didn't deter Deborah Schwind, an occupational therapist in Loudoun County, from starting the Community Independence Instruction (CII) program at Cedar Lane Elementary School. Third to fifth grade students participate in CII building job skills, developing career interests, and embedding academic knowledge through hands-on learning opportunities throughout the school building. Ms. Schwind recognizes and understands the importance of teaching career and jobs skills early through experiential work-based learning that engages the learner physically and mentally.
Through CII, students participate in a school-based Farmer's Market and operate a coffee cart for school employees. Students working on the "farm" cultivate, care for, and harvest the plants. During the spring students grow potatoes, carrots, and sunflowers to sell. During the winter, students grow herbs and then use the herbs to make dressings and vinegars at the Farmer's Market. The winter harvest sometimes includes beets, beet greens, lettuce, kale and radishes. In addition to vegetables, students also sell birdseed wreaths they have made. The coffee cart is one of the year-round businesses run by the students. They stock the cart, make the coffee, collect monies, and provide clean-up. Other work-based learning tasks students engage in through CII include delivering backpacks, stocking sweeteners in the teacher's lounge, assembling nursing bags, and assembling SOL bags. These tasks incorporate movement and heavy work for sensory input. The jobs are part of the student's routine during the day and are included as part of their visual schedule.

Connection to Post-School Predictors
Students involved in CII coffee cart and Farmer's Market are learning vital Social Skills as they interact with peers in the school, with co-workers, and with a wide array of school personnel. Career Awareness is also developed as students engage in varied job tasks in the farm, Farmer's Market, coffee cart and other school-based work experiences.

Expand Your Knowledge
Occupational Therapy and Transition

Tips for Starting and Executing an Elementary School Business

For More Information

Mary Young
Transition Consulting Teacher

Deborah Schwind
Occupational Therapist

Video: Occupational Therapy at Cedar Lane Elementary School

Montevideo Middle School Peer Mentoring Program

Three students in a parking lot holding a potato experiment.

Four years ago, Linda Dillashaw and Janine Bailey started teaching at Montevideo Middle School and wanted to shake things up a bit. They inherited a long-standing mentoring experience for students with moderate and multiple disabilities that they both thought could take the next step. Taking it to the next step involved not only involving students with disabilities in general education settings, but also adding an educational component for the mentors. Mentors must complete a curriculum that includes coursework on disability awareness, medical terms related to disability, and knowledge on medical and therapeutic devices. This additional information allows mentors to better interact with mentees in general education settings. The accessible bus for field trips is now an inclusive environment with students with multiple disabilities attending grade level field trips with grade level mentors. Peer mentors work on Competent Learner Model goals with students helping to demonstrate goals across environments and with people other than teachers. The course is set up in the course catalog as an elective that prospective mentors choose and, if selected through a competitive process, they are placed with students across general education settings where they will interact with students with intellectual disabilities, autism, and multiple disabilities.

Connection to Post-School Predictors
The peer mentoring program at Montevideo Middle Schools enhances the school experiences of both mentors and mentees. Peer mentors encourage students to take more ownership of their education by making them feel included and welcome in general education settings increasing Inclusion in General Education settings.  The relationship between mentors and mentees involve students working together from the beginning to the end of the school day, including at lunch and in the halls, allowing for many opportunities for students with disabilities to practice their Social Skills. Mentees must also learn to express and communicate their needs and desires with their peers thus increasing Self-Advocacy and Self-Determination.

Expand Your Knowledge
Peer-to-Peer Mentoring

For More Information
Janine Bailey

Linda Dillashaw

Montevideo Middle School
7648 McGaheysville Rd.
Penn Laird, VA 22846
540.289.3601 FAX

Duds & Dough

Jerziah with his teachers in front of one of his paintings.

Several years ago, Wise County Public Schools identified that a lack of work experience opportunities hindered skills development and future job opportunities for their students. In response, they developed and implemented Duds and Dough to address a lack of opportunities for students to learn work skills in authentic environments. Duds & Dough offers a consignment shop and catering to the community through a post graduate program providing onsite training to students with disabilities who have completed a high school program.  Students work two years in the business and then have the opportunity to work in the community for an additional one to two years under the supervision of a job training coach.  Following a student’s work experience in the consignment shop and catering business, they are matched with job offerings in the community linked to their career interests. Students participate in community settings for one to two years before exiting school services.

Connection to Post-School Predictors
Through work experiences with Duds and Dough students have the opportunity to build pre-employment work and interpersonal skills in two student run enterprises before participating in a supported community-based, paid work experience. They learn valuable social skills through serving and interacting with the customers from the community. They also have a better sense of the types of jobs involved in hospitality and retail work and thus develop deeper career awareness.  The Duds and Dough work experience also offers students vocational education and occupational coursework in areas related to retail and hospitality. Students also benefit from paid employment in their community experiences.

Expand Your Knowledge
School-Based Enterprise Development: Planning, Implementing, and Evaluating

School-based Enterprises

For More Information
Lisa Robinette
Transition Coordinator
Wise County Alternative Education Center
P.O. Box 660
Wise, VA 24293
(276) 328-6113


Jerziah with his teachers in front of one of his paintings.

For the past three years, TEACH has provided students with classroom instruction on career preparation topics such as effective communication, listening techniques, self-advocacy, resume building, and job interviewing. Students also participate in internships with seven local businesses throughout the year which provide them with job training and inclusion in the community. Former TEACH students have been hired by participating businesses as a result of their internships. To ensure inclusion of supported employment efforts, career training for TEACH students, and a seamless transition to adult supports, the program partners with the Department of Rehabilitative Services, the Community Services Board, and Career Support Systems. These efforts extend a variety of resources to the students, their parents, and to the community regarding career education and employment of those with disabilities. The program was recently honored by the State Board Association as one of 92 programs across the state "showcased for success."

Connection to Post-School Predictors
Through the TEACH instructional and internship components, students learn and apply several predictors of post-school success. During the classroom component, students learn valuable self-advocacy, self-care, and social skills. They are then able to apply these skills in employment settings as they work and interact with business leaders and business consumers in the community. They also have a much better idea of the many types of jobs available in their home community as they work in seven local businesses, thus increasing their career awareness as they engage in community experiences.  Students also benefit both during school and following high school graduation from the interagency collaboration that is included in the TEACH program.

Expand Your Knowledge
Setting up Situational Assessments – Read more about the steps to set up situational assessments in your community.

For More Information:
Cheryl R. Brown, CESP
Transition Employment Specialist
Alleghany Co. Public Schools

Children's Hospital of Richmond

Jerziah with his teachers in front of one of his paintings.

Since receiving this recognition, Jerziah Melike Moore passed away on December 23, 2016 at MCV Hospital in Richmond, Virginia. He was an amazing young man with special talents in music, art, and drama, and he touched the lives of so many people. We have learned much from Jerziah's time with us here at Children's Hospital of Richmond, Brook Road, and his legacy will never be forgotten.

Jerziah is a DJ on the radio, which might not be what you expect from a student receiving school services in a hospital setting. In 2015, Jerziah's teacher Ruth Sangiuliano with Children's Hospital of Richmond took an online course on Transition Outcomes offered through the Center on Transition Innovations. She says this course allowed her "to expand possibilities for Jerziah to include transition assessments that showed areas of interest, learning styles, and provided access to I'm Determined. Jerziah began advocating, not only for his educational and medical needs, but took part in system changes throughout the hospital." Jerziah identified broadcast communication as a future goal, and he now uses his communication device to "DJ" for other children and hospital staff. Jerziah is currently participating in a situational assessment with WRIR radio to present a demo and hopes to eventually work as a DJ for one hour per week. Jerziah has also won awards for his art including the Richmond Squirrels Art Contest in which he designed a baseball player for a mural in the Richmond Baseball Diamond, and the Carytown Art Contest where he placed first for middle school students in Richmond City.

Connection to Post-School Predictors
Jerziah's experiences have demonstrated a connection to a wide variety of post-school predictors. His experiences with WRIR indicate a strong connection with community experiences and career awareness. Participation in the situational assessment at WRIR is an example of work study as he learns from radio professionals with school support. Additionally, he has learned and practiced many self-advocacy and self-determination skills over the past year. Jerziah uses his skills and experiences to assist other learners by giving demonstrations and telling his story to student nurses from several schools of nursing around the Richmond area. Jerziah is a remarkable example of how transition planning that occurs early in a student's life can lead to opportunities that some may have never thought possible.

For More Information:

Ruth Sangiuliano, M.Ed.

Hospital Education Program
Children's Hospital of Richmond, Brook Road Campus
(804) 228-9211

The Sparkle Effect

Cheerleaders at a night time football game forming a pyramid.

Friday night lights are becoming more inclusive at one Virginia high school. Cosby High School in Chesterfield County was the first school in Virginia to implement the Sparkle Effect Cheerleading program. Students with disabilities join the varsity cheerleading team at football games to cheer on their team. "The Sparkle Effect program is a nationally recognized cheerleading program that invites students with special needs to be part of the action during Friday night lights," explains Megan Deluccia-Chisholm, the varsity cheerleading coach at Cosby. According to the Sparkle Effect website the aim of the program is to "showcase a loud and public symbol of acceptance...changing a school's culture to one that values diversity."

Connection to Post-School Predictors
Through program participation, Sparkle Effect cheerleaders engage in several predictors of post-school success. First and foremost, they are involved with students without disabilities through inclusion in general education activities. They learn valuable social skills through their interactions with other cheerleaders, sports participants, and spectators. Their self-advocacy and self-determination skills are enhanced as they learn complicated cheers, call and lead cheers, and through increased confidence in their abilities. All of these skills are valuable as they look forward to a life time of participating in inclusive recreation and leisure activities.

For More Information:

Megan Deluccia-Chisholm

Cosby High School
14300 Fox Club Parkway, Midlothian, VA 23112
(804) 639-8340

Sparkle Effect Official Website

The Freedom High School Bistro and Bakery

The Freedom High School Bistro and Bakery is a student-led enterprise serving breakfast and lunch to staff and parents. Students serve breakfast pastries and coffee from 7:30-8:30 each morning and lunch on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Lunch offerings, prepared by the students, include salad, soups, and desserts. The Freedom Bistro Express started as a simple school bus, but it has been transformed into a food bus. The Bistro Express serves walking tacos, ice cream and drinks to students in afterschool activities and to local construction crews working near the school. The Bistro Express also caters home football games. Students helped transform the bus into a bistro and run all aspects of the business including: menu development, grocery shopping, cost analysis, food prep, money management, and food safety. All profits from both restaurants go toward students' supplies and educational and work-based field trips.

Connection to Post-School Predictors
Through program instruction and the work-based experience, students working at the Bistro and Bakery and the Bistro Express are able to engage in several predictors of post-school success. They learn valuable social skills through serving and interacting with customers and have a much better idea of the types of jobs involved in restaurant work by developing career awareness. For students interested in working in hospitality and dining services, the Bistro work experience offers them vocational education and occupational coursework.

For More Information:

Marilyn Austin

Myrna M. Nolla-Horner

Freedom High School
15201 Neabsco Mills Rd
Woodbridge, VA 22191
(703) 583-1405