Project Life Experience

For the 6th straight year, the Tailor Institute hosted Project Life Experience at the University of Missouri at St. Louis. Seven soon-to-be high school juniors and seniors from Southeast Missouri and St. Louis participated in this exciting three-day event to learn about colleges and careers. For three days and two nights, they lived in a dormitory with their peers without any parental involvement. The goal of the residency is to help determine whether or not they can see themselves living on campus when they enroll in college upon high school graduation.

These students visited four different post secondary institutions: Ranken Tech (a technical college), St. Louis Community College at Meramac, Lindenwood University, and the University of Missouri at St. Louis. These participants learned about how to plan and prepare for college, as well as recognize the importance of registering at disability-related support programs so that they can continue to receive academic accommodations at the collegiate level. Even more importantly, they began to identify vocational or academic programs that may appeal to them at one or more campuses. By visiting these campuses and academic programs, the students can start thinking about careers now, not after finishing high school.

These high school students also visited Boeing near Lambert Airport to learn about careers within the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. They learned about various STEM careers that exist within the aviation and astronomy industries. During a tour of the Prologue Museum one of the students,Kevin, became a “tour guide” for the group when we came across the exhibits about Sputnik and Apollo. He seemed to knew every historic detail about these spacecrafts. It was remarkable!

In addition to visiting Boeing, the students met Austin Vincent, who is an electrical engineer at Boeing and a person with high-functioning autism. Not only did he talk about his profession, Austin (and his mother and fellow TI staff member, Cyndy Vincent) talked about his challenges throughout high school and college and what actions he took to succeed when entering adulthood. Austin touched upon the importance of establishing relationships with peers and adults and developing effective time management and organizational skills.

As mentioned in the Southeast Missourian newspaper earlier this week, the group visited a Missouri Career Center to learn about its employment-related services. The staff taught the participants to utilize its website to draft marketable resumes to be used in the near future.

On the second night of Project Life Experience, the participants visited the physics department at UMSL. Unknown to many, the university houses a small dome-shaped classroom called the Planetarium. The students watched several astronomy-related videos, including a feature on the upcoming solar eclipse. Afterward, they visited the Observatory to look through a large telescope to see the craters of the Moon, the moons orbiting Jupiter, and the stars of Mizra and Vega. The participants enjoyed it very much, as it is a unique experience that relates to their interests.

As of today, over 75% of the participants in Project Life Experience are in college. Several are currently attending graduate school. Most are also working while attending college. It is the Tailor Institute’s hope that we played a meaningful role in their preparation for college, employment, and adulthood. Not only are these students capable of becoming engineers, historians, educators, computer programmers, auto mechanics, chefs, and much more, but they are able to establish healthy relationships and live independently. They simply need guidance along the way to help them achieve these life goals!