Behind the Scenes of the iExcel Program

Erin Logan and Mia Snow

One of the shining lights in our community–one that may not receive the recognition it deserves–is the iExcel Program at Scituate High School. Composed of South Shore students, ages 14-21, with moderate to severe disabilities, the program focuses on helping students develop a variety of skills. Independent learning skills, vocational training, community-based training, and transportation training are emphasized as students work toward earning their high school diplomas. According to the director of the program, Julie Meredith, students in the iExcel program are multi-talented. “They’re very hardworking, they’re very bright, and they do a lot for the community and for the school,” she said. “I think sometimes, I don’t know if everyone knows everything that they do.”


Job sites are an important component of the iExcel program. Students work at a variety of sites, including South Shore Hospital, Wahlburgers, TK’s and the Village Market. Every job that students undertake is tailored to their specific interests or their career aspirations. If a student expresses an interest in a certain area, the staff works to find a corresponding job. Not only do they tailor their jobs to specific interests, but Meredith, pointed out, “they also expose them to things that they may have never even thought that they would be interested in.” Meredith said these experiences have led to students finding new interests. Each job site has a liaison, a staff member who coaches students, helps them learn specific skills, and communicates with the managers of the site.  


Members of the staff customize the day rotation, the job sites, and the field trips to match each student’s specific goals. When asked about the daily schedule, Meredith said, “It’s very individualized and very multilayered,” which helps each student achieve his or her goals. Throughout the day, students can be found in the classroom working on academics or receiving speech therapy or counseling. In addition, they are at different job sites around the South Shore. This busy day follows the SHS seven day rotation as well as a Monday through Friday work schedule.


Around the school, members of the iExcel program take pride in projects such as growing the organic vegetables in the vegetable garden and assisting with day-to-day operations in the cafeteria. Students also supply the flowers in the office and library.  


Twice a month students and staff go on different field trips, which have focused on learning bus routes or learning consumer shopping skills. At the beginning of the school year, students went to the Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston. They were able to meet with Senator Patrick O’Connor and participated in a private tour of the Statehouse. Last year, students went to Target before the holidays to shop for presents.


An important component of the iExcel program is participation in school events. Students enjoy being involved in the Senior Showcase, pep rallies, and the Best Buddies Club at SHS. Gail.Varrasso, one of the directors, said, “The kids have so much to offer–it’s really a win/win situation when you can have students with disabilities interacting with general ed students.” Varrasso added, “You can see what they each gain from each other.”  The iExcel students are “some of the best people I know,” according to Varrasso.