Start on Success

Start on Success (SOS) is a structured school-to-work program for students with disabilities pursuing a standard or advanced studies diploma to better prepare for the workforce and postsecondary education. SOS is a year-long program designed to provide classroom instruction during the first semester and a paid internship at a local business during the second semester of the student's senior year.

Program Goals

  • Assist students in discovering abilities and interests
  • Support students in practicing self-advocacy and self-determination skills
  • Assist students in developing career pathways
  • Offers business mentorship opportunities
  • Provides business with a pool of potential employees

Instruction in conjunction with a work-based learning experience, provides students with the opportunity and support to further discover abilities, career interests, and support needs in preparation for a career pathway of choice. Through a collaborative effort, SOS builds stronger relationships between schools, students, families, community agencies, and the business community. Since its inception in 1994 by the National Organization on Disability, the SOS model has been implemented in over a dozen cities around the US and has served more than 4,000 students. Students who participate in SOS continue on to postsecondary employment or education at a rate of 75-85 percent, which is three times higher than the overall rate for students with disabilities.

In Virginia, SOS is being implemented in various school divisions across the state in collaboration with CTI, the Virginia Department of Education, and the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services. Divisions who want to engage in efforts to replicate this effective employment model can utilize the SOS Replication Guide to assist in implementing a successful SOS program.


The following resources will assist in the development and implementation of the SOS program. If modifications are made, please credit VCU CTI for use of forms. The content was developed by the VCU Center on Transition Innovations under a contract from the Virginia Department of Education.

SOS Action Plan provides an outline of tasks and expectations for developing and implementing a successful SOS program.

SOS Flyer is a valuable resource that can be distributed to students, families, businesses, and community agencies during recruitment.

SOS SPIN Flyer is a sample invitation to an SOS information session during the recruitment process for interested students, families, school staff, and community agencies.

SOS Fast Fact provides information on the SOS program that can be shared with school personnel and others who want to learn more about the benefits of the SOS program.

Success Stories

Richmond Public Schools (RPS) began implementing SOS during the 2016-2017 school year. VCU News highlighted RPS' interns in the May 31, 2017 issue. Read the article.