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Youth with disabilities celebrate completion of summer work program

Monday, July 17, 2023

BETHANY, Okla. – Twenty-two young interns with disabilities celebrated their completion of a statewide summer employment program that led to paychecks, valuable work experience and permanent jobs for many from the Bethany and Putnam City areas.

Families and friends attended a completion ceremony on July 14 at Bethany Public Library where interns received awards for their successes in the program.

Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation ServicesTransition program and OU National Center for Disability Education and Training’s Pre-Employment Transition Services offer free BEST STEP job readiness training and paid summer work experience in 27 cities across the state in June and July.

BEST STEP is an acronym for Building Employment Skills Today and Summer Transition Employment Program.

The BEST part of the program is one week of pre-employment transition instruction.

During the STEP portion, eligible students worked up to 25 hours per week at $10 per hour for businesses in their communities. STEP salaries are primarily funded by Central Oklahoma Workforce Innovation Board with Southern Workforce Board providing funding in certain counties.

“I would recommend BEST STEP to another student because it will help them get started on their work experience,” Raymond Gutierrez, a junior who attends Putnam City High school, said.

Gutierrez, who excels at drawing colorful artwork, liked his summer job as a prep chef helping to prepare food at Embassy Suites Hotel in Oklahoma City.  

“I also learned to how to deposit money, how to process a check when you get paid and how to have good social skills and ask what the dress code is and how to have a good behavior,” he added.

Gutierrez’s employment consultant Becky Shelby said the Embassy Suites Hotel supervisor said they had never had such a hard worker and quick learner as Gutierrez.

Shelby is a Putnam City High School special education teacher who worked for Transition BEST STEP program during the summer.

“We are proud to honor each intern with awards for their hard work and success in the BEST STEP program this summer with eight staff and their families cheering them on,” said Michelle Rudesill, a DRS Transition vocational rehabilitation counselor. “It’s great that many of the interns now have job offers from the host companies where they worked during summer.”

Rudesill coordinated the BEST STEP program in Bethany and the awards ceremony.

“We look forward to building a network of employers – I call them community partners – who will take on interns, hire clients and accept students from my schoolwork study program,” Rudesill said.

BEST STEP students are DRS clients or potentially eligible to become clients with a documented disability. They are at least 16 years old.

DRS Transition and OU Pre-ETS offers the BEST STEP program every summer. For more information, visit or phone 405-212-7789.

DRS Transition provides career planning and employment services to prepare students with disabilities for employment, postsecondary education and life after high school. Services may include career counseling, vocational evaluation, work adjustment training, on-the-job training, work study, and job development and placement. BEST is one many programs DRS offers in partnership with other agencies, public school systems and community organizations. 

The National Center for Disability Education and Training at The University of Oklahoma Outreach provides Pre-Employment Transition Service (Pre-ETS) activities to high school students with disabilities. Pre-ETS-career focused preparation activities include job exploration, work-based learning, workplace readiness, self-advocacy and postsecondary counseling.


1st photo: Employment Consultant Becky Shelby (left) congratulates Raymond Gutierrez for completing the BEST STEP summer employment program. 2nd photo: Michelle Rudesill (left), DRS Transition vocational rehabilitation counselor, recognizes Carson Fain for memorizing and retaining the location of books during his BEST STEP internship interned at Bethany Public Library.

For more information

Brett Jones, DRS Communications Officer

Cell: 405-651-4594