MADISON, Ala. (WHNT) – Preparing students for the real world after graduation from high school can be a challenge, especially for special needs students. 

Madison City schools are bucking the trend on how much of a challenge that preparation can be. Starting with how to use the appropriate social skills for the workplace. 

Damien Oliver is a senior special education student at Bob Jones high school. Last week he attended a career expo that was loaded with careers in health and technology but was looking to apply for a job to do what he loves. 

“I like landscaping, welding, anything that has to do with the outside because I don’t mind the harsh temperatures,” Damian explained.  

Those jobs may sound menial to most, but not to Damian as he finds pleasure and purpose in the repetition of the task that he was taught. 

Damian says that Bob Jones, especially Special Education job coach Michelle Hyams, “have prepared me to apply for a job and do whatever I wanted to do after I graduate.”

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Hyams told News 19 that Damian was prepared and looking forward to the career expo.  

“His work ethic has just made him such a delight to work with,” said Hyams. “When we first started going around to the different tables, he just said this really makes me nervous and what he found is that he got better after everyone.” 

Hyams has spent tireless hours making sure that all students, including those with special needs, are prepared for the real world by installing a work-based learning program. 

“What we wanted to do was to look at having a program with one of our community partners and to give them the opportunity to see what real-life work was like,” said Hyams. 

Five years ago, Hyams established the Best Buddies program that helps to create an inclusive school climate for students living with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

Madison City Schools are the only district in north Alabama with a Best Buddies chapter. With very few programs for special needs in schools, Hyams is hopeful that this model will be established statewide.