Making the transition from school to work

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Messenger photo by Theresa Hennis
London High School students in the Ready For Work Transition Program will display and sell their hand-made crafts at the Madison County Board of Developmental Disabilities holiday open house on Dec. 13: (front row, from left) students Sophie Brand, Sady Brown and Kyle White; (back row) London High School paraprofessional Deb Bowen, student Selena Cotton, and London High School intervention specialist Jamie Finney.

(Posted Dec. 5, 2019)

By Theresa Hennis, Staff Writer

Graduating from high school for any student is challenging and especially so for students with special needs who, like mainstream students, don’t know what to expect.

When we remember our high school days, we remember the excitement and dreams we had for the future. Thanks to the Ready for Work Transition Program, administered by the Madison County Board of Developmental Disabilities (MCBDD) in coordination with school intervention programs, students with special needs at London and West Jefferson high schools can realize their own post-graduation dreams.

Michael Potter, a West Jefferson High School student in the Ready for Work Transition Program, dumps granola bars into bins to make assembling Sufficient Grace food boxes an easier task for volunteers.

Jamie Finney, intervention specialist for grades 9-12 at London High School, said, “I like that I am able to work with each individual student on their level to help them perceive their interests in life and help them foster the skill set for that. I’m very happy we have a nice, clean, and safe space here at LHS that is accommodating to our students. The environment here is very warm and welcoming.”

Transitioning from a warm and welcoming classroom to life and work outside of school could be daunting for students if not for MCBDD professionals who guide and train them. Getting a job is only one part of the equation. Keeping one is essential, and that’s where the Transition program prepares students for life beyond the classroom.

“The jobs they get are typically within their field of interest. We partner with Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities so the students can try out a job, and if it isn’t working, we will find something they really like,” said Hope Smith, MCBDD Transition program coordinator. “Every student from last year’s program at London High School has successfully gotten a job and kept it.”

Lee Adkins, a London High School student in the Ready for Work Transition Program, dusts bookshelves at London Public Library.

Those results are proof that the skills students receive from their special education at London and West Jefferson help them to transition well. MCBDD continues to work with the students beyond graduation to ensure they have a solid support system in place.

“This program helps us, at the county board, really monitor and follow up with these kids so we can continue to work with them after they graduate,” Smith said.

Connie Lollo, a Transition job coach, travels to both schools to work with students. There are six students in the program at London and seven at West Jefferson. The students have opportunities to work at local agencies and community centers.

For example, West Jefferson students fill food boxes at Sufficient Grace, assist librarians at Hurt-Battelle Memorial Library, and stock the high school lunchroom.

London students help to clean the Madison County Senior Citizens Center and prepare place settings for the center’s senior daycare lunch. They also work at London Public Library, helping to clean, organize promotional materials for library events, and stamp books for book sales.

Sady Brown, a London High School student in the Ready for Work Transition Program, uses her speaking device to count out sugar packets to put in trays that go on lunch tables at the Madison County Senior Citizens Center.

London students will have another opportunity to put their skills to work and engage with the community when they display their hand-made crafts for sale at MCBDD’s holiday open house, set for 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Dec. 13.

“When we met with Jamie (Finney) about showcasing the students’ craft projects at our open house, we kept in mind their IEP (individual education plan) goals. Daily living skills are incorporated into making and selling the crafts,” said Gretchen Peters, MCBDD community connections manager.

West Jefferson students will have a similar opportunity next spring.

MCBDD’s holiday open house will include the student crafts, lunch, tours of decorated offices, a bake sale and a Christmas basket raffle. The facility is located at 500 Elm St. (State Route 38), behind Fairhaven School. Donations will support the Transition program.

To learn more about the Ready for Work Transition program, other MCBDD programs, or the agency’s open house, call (740) 852-7050.

Jayden Clark, a West Jefferson High School student in the Ready for Work Transition Program, learns how to sort metal pieces by shape, color and design, a task that is important to learn for an assembly line job.

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