Farmington school offers job training for special needs students 18 and older

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It is a school for children with special needs - and it is a pretty special place.

A cooking class at Visions Unlimited is where special needs students are not only embracing school, they're embarking on life.

On this day they are making ham and egg cups while other students head out to board their buses with off-site jobs to get to.

"It is almost time to go to work," said principal Bobbie Goodrum. 

Goodrum's 75 students are all special needs between the ages of 18 and 26, all part of the Farmington Public Schools Visions Unlimited. Michigan is the only state that still has public school programs like this for special needs students beyond high school.

"We need to get the students as many skills as possible because there are not a lot of services available to them after they finish with the public school system," said Goodrum.

The students may have autism or have moderate to severe cognitive and physical impairments - yet each one is working on- or off-site at restaurants and community centers and car dealerships.

"Is it great to be going out into the community and working?"

"I think so," said CJ Ruetter.

Ruetter is 21-years-old and working at Mercedes. He's also learning math.

"I do learn at math. Math is a very good working skill," he said.

And cooking is a good skill, too.

"I think Vision is the best school I ever want to be in," said Ruetter.

"The students are happy to be here, that is a Visions difference," said Goodrum. "Everybody is happy to be here."

The students are happy and learning valuable skills as well as community service, purchasing groceries and packing backpacks for elementary school students whose families are dealing with issues of food insecurity.

"Our students have complicated needs but they can still contribute to society," Goodrum said. "They can still do community service and they're very proud of that."

They're also very proud of what they create in their production lab and sell to the community. They make their own paper and turn it into beautiful cards. They also make coasters and sun catchers and wreaths made of bird seed and dog bones.

"The students feel good knowing their products are out in the world being cherished," Goodrum said.

And the students, like Michelle Kramp, also know that here they are cherished, too.

"Being with friends and meeting new friends," she said.

FOX 2: "Pretty happy place?"

"Pretty happy place," she said.

It is a place charting a future especially for them.

FOX 2: "Do you have any idea what you want to do when you're done with school?"

"I have no idea yet," she said.

FOX 2: "But you're working on figuring it out?"

"Yes, I am."

"It is gratifying and it makes us feel really good and proud of our work," Goodrum said. "But most of all we're proud of our students."

A talent show - Vision's Got Talent is March 22 at Farmington High School, 32000 Shiawassee Road 48335. The show starts at 7 p.m. and the ticket price is $5 at the door.

You can learn more about the program online here