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STEP-UP: How It Works

Through the STEP-UP partnership, students have training experiences with USGS to gain valuable job skills to support their goals of seeking employment and living more independently.

A young woman in a plaid winter coat works on a computer with a topographic map on the screen.
Jessica identifies and tags features on maps in ArcGIS. She was a STEP-UP student and is now a full-time employee at USGS.

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) of 2004, school districts (and other educational institutions) provide school-to-work transition programs to students with disabilities. In such programs, teachers and parents work with their students to create Individual Education Programs (IEPs), tailored to the students’ goals. Many students have elected to include vocational training as part of their IEPs, and they earn school credit for those work-setting experiences.

To meet the students’ goals, the school districts partner with local public- and private-sector organizations to identify training opportunities where students can gain both “hard” job skills and “soft” interpersonal skills needed to navigate in a professional environment. The USGS is one of those partner organizations.

Depending on the school district’s program, STEP-UP students may participate on projects for up to 4 hours a day and up to 5 days a week. While USGS project hosts oversee the projects, onsite teachers or job coaches closely support the students’ daily activities. Although students are located at a limited number of sites, they are able to work on projects for science centers across the nation when data can be sent to them or accessed remotely.