Families Embracing Autism Together (F.E.A.T) was recently awarded a Microsoft Community Empowerment Fund grant. With the grant, F.E.A.T. hopes to create an inclusive employment opportunities within Mecklenburg and surrounding counties.

Co-founder Mandy Calhoun told the School Board on Monday night that Erin Spence, Educational Specialist for MCPS, responded to a social media post from F.E.A.T. about the program in hopes to incorporate the program into the public school system.

The program, Learning in Networks of Community Support (LINCS) promotes and assists with collaboration and partnerships among businesses, families, and support services in order to bring meaningful career opportunities within the community to those individuals with disabilities. Students will be provided with two polo shirts with the LINCS logo and two pairs of khaki pants to serve as a uniform.

There are currently nine students from Park View and two from Bluestone who will be participating in the program. “We have partnered with businesses on the South Hill side and also on the other end of the county in Chase City and Clarksville to welcome them into their businesses,” said Calhoun.

The students will be spending six hours a week with the business on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The school will provide transportation to and from the business during those hours. The program will operate during normal school hours. The school system will also provide a bag lunch for students to have on site at the business.

Students will be accompanied by a teacher, aide, and additional support staff provided by F.E.A.T. “They will have a one on one to provide them with any encouragement, assistance, or anything that they need.”

“I think it is a great set up and a great schedule. It is really just an important program. We’re going to give our kids important life skills; we’re going to give them work experience. This could be great relationships that development and maybe after graduation they can be hired by these companies fulltime. This will give them pride and a sense of accomplishment,” said Calhoun.

There is a meet and greet planned for the first week of October with students, businesses, teachers, and coaching staff. For information email ssvafeat@gmail.com or call 434-774-4069.