New learning lab helps Marietta students with disabilities get job training

Marietta City Schools works with local businesses to provide opportunities
Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 6:23 PM EDT
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MARIETTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) -For Marietta City Schools, making sure students have the opportunity to learn and thrive, no matter their ability, is a priority.

A new learning lab is now open. The lab is empowering children with disabilities, through job and " training.

“In August, it was an empty classroom, and through a partnership, with Parallel Learning and Apto, we wanted to grow what’s now become a learning laboratory, so that our 18- to 22-year-olds can learn soft skills and learn the skills needed,” said “(Michele Sayles Harris, Chief of Special Services and Educational Support, Marietta City Schools.

According to a press release, Marietta High School and IT company Apto Solutions teamed up together for the lab.

“The Apto/MPower Learning program was designed to help students transition into post-secondary life after high school and provide them with soft skills they need for lifelong employment,” the release said.

Leaders said this program is modeled after a partnership between Blue Star Recyclers and Cherry Creek School District in Denver, Colorado.

Right now, interns are disassembling laptops and cellphones for Apto Solutions.

“Apto is a company that offers recycling services to companies in the Atlanta area. They had a gap, unable to fill employment opportunities and recognized that some students with disabilities who are neuro-diverse might be able to learn the skills needed to become employable by Apto,” Sayles Harris said. “One of our state indicators, is to ensure that students with disabilities when they leave high school, don’t just go home and not become meaningful participants within society,” she said. “So, we wanted to be able to create employment opportunities by providing them training so that they can go out and gain those employment opportunities,” Sayles Harris said.

Educators are building employees now, for the future.

“The purpose of this class is to provide our students who have finished all of their academic requirements, a chance to build those employability skills to transfer to whatever they choose to do after they leave us,” said Lisa Leiter, Transition Services Coordinator, Marietta City Schools. “They’ve completed their graduation requirements, but the purpose of this program is to help them reach transition goals,” she said.

The interns are also learning teamwork, time management, and other skills. Leaders said individuals in the program are also helping the planet.

“The computers are actually recycled 100 percent, even down to a liquid that gets used for concrete,” said Shelbi Allen, Job Coach for MPower, Marietta High School, “So, I told them that they’re just not taking a part computer, that they’re saving the world,” she said.

Allen said once the items are picked up from the school, they are sent to different places all over the world.

“For instance, the motherboard goes to Great Britain where they do melt down because there’s gold and and silver,” Allen said.

Students said they are happy to be a part of the program.

“It helps me get me my plan after high school,” said Keylan Skipper, an intern in Mpower Program.

Officials with Marietta City Schools said they’re looking to expand what they offer inside of the lab. Next school year, they’re planning on partnering with more businesses to provide more opportunities for individuals in the program.