Bridge to Success Program helps students with disabilities secure full-time jobs

Posted on 07/13/2022
Randy Hufford

Former Francis Howell School District (FHSD) student Randy Hufford landed a full-time job at the Embassy Suites St. Charles by Hilton after completing the Bridge to Success Program.

The Bridge to Success Program is a collaboration with St. Charles County school districts and local businesses. This partnership helps support students with disabilities and reduce barriers when they enter the workforce. 

Hufford is a 2022 graduate of Francis Howell North (FHN). He joined the Bridge to Success program and worked as a marketing intern during his senior year. Hufford would start his morning each day at FHN and then spend the second half of his day at Embassy Suites in St. Charles. He says he never expected the internship would turn into a full-time job.

“I am so excited. I graduated and here I am fresh out of high school with a full-time job that I enjoy. This program is fantastic,” said Hufford. “The teachers are great. They really get me ready for the real world. I would work here 60 hours a week if they let me. I love this program!”

One of the program teachers, Joe Henke, said he truly enjoys his work because he loves to see the students transition into the next phase of their lives. 

“It’s great to see. They are right at the end of their high school journey and it’s fun to see them figuring out themselves, becoming independent, and growing!”

Henke said these students leave their internship with new skills like time management and how to better communicate with their boss and colleagues. He said it’s also an opportunity for students to gain professional references from the supervisors they work with every day.

The Bridge to Success program was first offered in the 2020-21 school year and continues to grow. More than a dozen students participated in internships during the 2021-22 school year, with half of the students attending an FHSD school. There are more than 30 students participating in the 2022-23 school year.

“The Bridge to Success Program gives students the opportunity to experience hands-on learning experiences in a variety of workplace scenarios,” said Eddie Rodgers, FHSD program coordinator. “The soft skills students take away from their experience in Bridge to Success like preparing for a job interview, working on a team and customer service interactions are extremely valuable.”

The partnership is made up of three St. Charles County school districts (Orchard Farm, Francis Howell and City of St. Charles), The Center for Head Injury Services (post-secondary service provider for adults with disabilities) and the Developmental Disabilities Resource Board. The program serves students who qualify for special education services. It has recently been re-branded from the previous national model, Project Search.

The Bridge to Success program currently operates at three host sites - Cintas, Embassy Suites, and the St. Charles Convention Center. In 2022-23, Bridge to Success will expand to a fourth site at a local retail employer, Fresh Thyme.

If you are interested in hosting interns in the future or have questions about the program email FHSD Special Education Program Coordinator Eddie Rodgers.
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