Editor's Note: This article was written and submitted by Chris Boyle.
The Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District, Special Education Parent/Teacher Association (SEPTA) and The Community Parent Center presented their sixth annual Fair for Transitioning Students with Disabilities Tuesday, showing off the success stories of special students who have gone on to gainful employment post-graduation.
SEPTA President Ellen Proszak said that the purpose of the award-winning work training program at Calhoun is, first and foremost, to help special students get a foothold in the workforce once they graduate.Like Merrick Patch on Facebook by clicking here.
“The Transition Fair is a chance for parents, students and educators from all around Long Island to come together to meet with different agencies that provide services to students with disabilities, starting in High School and beyond,” Proszak said. “Starting with eligibility for services, all the way to employment and state programs that help students find jobs, and be all that they can be.”
Mary Jo Kennedy of the Career and Education Counseling Center said that her agency works hand-in-hand with the CHSD to get the kids in her care as ready as possible for the rigors of the modern-day workplace.
“I’m a Vocational Rehab Counselor and Trainer,” Kennedy said. “I’m from an agency that Bellmore-Merrick hired to teach the kids job skills. Myself, along with eight other job coaches, we teach these kids resume writing, interview skills, how to dress for work, how to handle a crisis, money skills...it’s all about work. It’s a great program, and it’s a lot of fun.”
Proszak also spoke about a recent program Calhoun has implemented that helps grads with special needs get the real-world experience they need to succeed in today’s job market.
“We have a student workshop now, where we have Alumni who have received all the education and services that Calhoun can provide, and they are employed,” she said. “These graduates are with several agencies that we work with, doing an employment training program, where the state pays the student so that the employer can employ them but not have to pay them, and hopefully they’ll find a place within that job site and go on to a paying job.”
Several of those Alumni were present to give motivational speeches to many of Calhoun’s current special-needs students about what to expect for the future, as well as helping them develop self-advocacy.
Jimmy Roeder graduated from Calhoun in 2010, but will remain in the program until he turns 21.
“The program has helped me get job skills,” Roeder said. “I interned at Old Navy, and they asked me to stay, and now I actually have a paying job there. I always have a smile on my face, because I love working there so much.”
Justin Katzman graduated Calhoun in 2012, and, at age 22, is employed at the Young Adult Institute in Westbury.
“We learned money skills, and how to use a cash register...it really helped me get a job,” he said. “I work at a day program now, and I get to help other people. I really like it.”Did you attend the fair? What did you think? Tell us in the comments section below.
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