Goodwill Industries and the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation Create Summer Program for Students
FALLS CREEK- Summer can be an exciting time for students, but for some it means a loss of structure and sense of aimlessness.
This summer, Goodwill Industries of North Central Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation have created a new program, Summer Skills for Success, for high school students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
There are limited options for these students during the summer, and this program will be one a few work-based summer programs in the area.
Ben Fitzgerald-Fye, director of the Goodwill NCPA Mission Services Department, says this program helps kids who may otherwise fall through the cracks during the summer.
“Some of these kids will essentially stop being engaged for the summer,” he said. “They will have no structure and some will be out working sooner rather than later. If they don’t have the skills now it will be difficult to get them later.”
Summer Skills for Success started June 14, and will continue to meet every Tuesday and Thursday for six weeks. Each day, the students come to the Falls Creek Headquarters for an hour-long Work Readiness Training class. The classes focus on team building, dependability, self-presentation, self-advocacy, future planning and resume writing.
“The earlier you can engage a kid in the importance of planning for their future the better off they will be,” Fitzgerald-Fye said.
Following the morning class, the students gain real work experience by visiting local businesses with Goodwill Job Coaches. “They spend the rest of the day working on-site, doing whatever jobs that particular business has asked us to do or that we have asked them to allow us to do. So it will be a wide range, from landscaping to office work,” he added.
Businesses volunteering to serve as a Goodwill work-site partner include: Christ the King Manor, Mahoning Manor, Clarion Hotel, Reynoldsville Borough and Falls Creek Borough.
The students are gaining a wide range of work experience and will earn a paycheck during the program, teaching them the value of work and giving them an incentive to participate in the program.
Fitzgerald-Fye explained, “We are teaching them work skills in real time with real experiences. It is not a fabricated environment.”
He said what they will learn goes beyond basic work skills. “When you are working in a borough or an assisted living facility, for example, there is a process of giving back. They will be impacting people in their own communities, and they will learn how important it is to be a part of the communities they live in.”
Summer Skills for Success is only possible because of new federal funding for transition age youth and a partnership between Goodwill and the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR).
The funding is given to OVR through Pre-employment Transition Funds, which are part of the recent expansion of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act. The funding is intended to expand and create services for transition age individuals between 16 and 24 years old.
“My goal is to expand this beyond Jefferson and Clearfield counties and potentially start an after school program.” Fitzgerald-Fye said.
“In terms of results, if they leave with some degree of a new viewpoint of the social interactions in the workplace. If they get a better sense of what it means to be a part of a team that to me would be the biggest success.
“The real results of fruitful work are not really measurable. A sense of dignity and a sense of accomplishment are not things I can really quantify.”