Special needs teens compete in ‘Job Olympics’

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LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. -- More than 100 special needs students from three Missouri school districts are showcasing their skills for local employers today in an event billed as a "Job Olympics."

The teens hope the job training skills they're learning will help them make it on their own.

Auto detailing is just one of many job skills being demonstrated to educate employers that special needs students can be some of their most dedicated workers.

The kids are from Lee's Summit, Blue Springs and Belton. For the last six weeks, they've been learning everything from how to present themselves in an interview to bagging groceries. All in preparation for this event, where employers like Hy-Vee, Culver's And Mr. Goodcents will evaluate their performances.

The idea is to educate employers that they shouldn't overlook these teens just because they may be a little different.

"A lot of those hurdles are just kind of perceived," said Kelly Twenter, a Lee's Summit High School life skills teacher. "I think you see a student who might have a disability and automatically think the ability may not be there. But for our kids, this event allows kids to show community members that there are those abilities there and sometimes our business members just need to see it in action."

Students are showing that they can dress professionally and are eager for entry-level jobs that others don't like: -- Things like setting tables, wrapping silverware and stocking shelves.

Employers who've hired special needs kids often say they are ideal employees.
After showing employers what they can do, some of these kids may be asked to volunteer at a workplace for a week or two. If they perform well, Twenter says often that leads to a job offer that lets these kids know they can be successful in future careers.

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