District Five becomes first school district in SC to launch Club Equip

Lexington-Richland School District Five is celebrating a successful launch of a new program inside district high schools that is helping to empower students with disabilities.

School District Five is partnering with Able South Carolina (Able SC) to become the first school district in the state to launch Club Equip, a youth-driven peer leadership group that brings together students with disabilities in grades 9-12 to connect and engage, explore topics of interest, and establish leadership and self-advocacy skills as they navigate life transitions. School District Five received an SEL in Action Grant to fund Club Equip at Chapin High, Dutch Fork High, Irmo High and Spring Hill High.

“Our students sometimes have a hard time expressing their needs and wants and rely heavily on their family and friends to make their decisions,” said School District Five Job Coach Karan Bundrick. “We were presented an opportunity to team up with Able SC and work on self-advocacy skills and self-determination, so we jumped on it because we want our students to be able to live in the world independently and work in the world independently and be competitively employed. That is one of the big focuses in our program.”

School District Five continues to transform its transition services for students with disabilities to ensure they have access to meaningful, relevant learning opportunities that prepare them for success in the workplace. Partnerships between the private and public sector, spearheaded by School District Five, have been recognized statewide as models for excellence in service delivery and workforce development.

“We were thrilled to partner with School District Five,” Michael Hanna, Able SC Equip Coordinator said. “The curriculum is based off what we do in our statewide Equip Program and what we have been learning young adults need and what they come to Able SC seeking. It focuses on building self-advocacy skills and also leadership skills. The goal is to help students support and encourage each other to find their voice through self-advocacy and self-determination in all aspects of their lives from building strong relationships with peers, teachers, parents, and employers to feeling confident to express their needs, wants, and dreams in any situation.”

Club Equip met once a month during the school year and were run by student leaders who were trained to teach the lessons by Able SC staff members.

“The Equip Club has definitely helped me learn how to advocate and talk to others,” Dutch Fork High School senior Sydney Dunlap said. “The club also helped me to understand what having a disability means. I used to be scared of standing up for myself and just being me because I did not understand that I have the ability to stand up for myself.”

School District Five plans to continue the program next year and incorporate more learning opportunities and field trips.