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Exceptional Students: Bright Futures Thanks to RHS Programs & Resources

Rock Hill Schools honors October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Do you know about the Exceptional Student Education programs within Rock Hill Schools that help our students gain skills necessary for careers after high school? Do you know about the Community Based Instruction they receive that gives them real-life experiences working in different entities within the Rock Hill community?  Rock Hill Schools provides valuable resources for students to prepare them for life after high school graduation.


Rock Hill Exceptional Students leave high school ready. Ready to transition to a job. Ready to begin a college journey. Ready to be successful in life. This is possible because of the amazing programs, courses, and teachers at our high schools.


Currently, there are over 2,700 Rock Hill Schools students with special needs enrolled in various programs. Each and every day, we have 300 teachers, therapists, employment specialists, and assistants working to meet the unique, individualized needs of students who have been found eligible for specialized instruction and services. 


The work of Exceptional Education Teachers isn’t always easy – it comes with a unique set of skills as educators work to effectively instruct students of all different abilities. But these educators, advocating for their students, are creating the path for them to succeed in a future career or college journey. The resources within the Rock Hill high schools help students prepare for just that.


Elizabeth Berger, Exceptional Education Teacher at Rock Hill High School, has been a key educator is helping the students in these programs. “It is our intent to have them gain those skills needed after graduation,” she said.


In addition to learning core subjects - like math and English- the curriculum is geared to developing skills for life after graduation. Students are in the Employee Ability class where Ms. Berger will teach students practical skills such as filling out online applications for jobs. “We also teach living skills,” she said. “For instance, how will I live on my own?”


The Community Based Instruction program is a crucial part of the curriculum for Exceptional Students which gives students real-life experiences by placing students in jobs within the Rock Hill community for a full year. During class time, students will be bused to businesses to work and gain real-life work experience. Currently, Rock Hill Schools is partnered with Winthrop University and the Rock Hill Event Center in placing students within their organization.


“The students are off learning job skills,” Ms. Berger said. “We are focused on getting them skills that they can really use after school. We have job coaches and they are the ones that find the places for them.”


Another opportunity offered for Exceptional Students is the ability to take the written state driving permit test with Ms. Berger in the school classroom. In 2015, Ms. Berger became trained and certified to administer the test within the classroom and this allows the questions to be read out loud to the students and gives them a non-pressure atmosphere other than the DMV office to take the written permit test. Ms. Berger believes this has been very successful for many of her students. “I even help them study for the permit test,” she said. “We make study guides from the information in the manual and go over it multiple times.”  


During senior year, the students will also enroll in courses at the RHS Applied Technology Center which will allow them to find their interests and passions. Culinary arts, agriculture, or even Pack the Back provide students opportunities to dive into different avenues to discover what they like.


Rock Hill Schools is also involved in the nationwide program Project SEARCH. Project SEARCH is a “Transition-to-Work Program that’s a unique, business-led, one-year employment preparation program that takes place entirely at the workplace. Total workplace immersion facilitates a seamless combination of classroom instruction, career exploration, and hands-on training through worksite rotations.” 

To be eligible for Project SEARCH, students should be finished with their high school credit requirements for graduation, certification, or completion so that they will be able to focus their entire day on gaining competitive and marketable work skills. Students will report directly to their job site where they will spend their day. Currently, Rock Hill Schools is partnered with Piedmont where students will work in all departments to see where they fit best. At the end of the program, the option to hire can be available. Rock Hill High School had 2 students go through the program and get hired at Piedmont.

“We are hopeful to continue with Piedmont and get more students an opportunity for work placement there,” Ms. Berger said. “It’s really awesome to see students succeed!”


If you are a business that would like to get involved with or support the Community Based Instruction program, email communications at: