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Hard Work Pays Off for Area Students
Written by Kelly Kalb, Correspondent
2017-11-01

            For many people, hard work and determination is in their blood and that is certainly the case for a group of disabled students participating in a work program through the Upper Perkiomen High School.

            The program is focused on employability education for those students with

with intellectual disabilities, autism, learning support and emotional support needs. There are two levels of the program which caters to different age ranges and in-house or community based work.

            Jen Bamford, Life Skills teacher and creator of the seven-year-old program, said, "It has been rewarding to watch the program grow over the years. It is a necessary building block to assist students to be successful in their path of post high school employment."

            The first level of the program is in-house or school-based work for students ages 15 to 21. According to Shane Thrush, the high school's Transition Coordinator, there are about 15 students in this age group.

            "This program consists of students attending academic courses in the morning and they participate in work activities around the school for the last period of the day. The students work in the cafeteria, maintenance department, and an occasional community work site on an exploratory basis," Thrush explained.

            The second level of the program is community based and targets students 18 to 21 years of age. This level currently consists of two students and shifts their programming from academics to building their employability skills most of the school day, as explained by Bamford and Thrush.

            "These students will continue to assist with experiences within the school but they also spend an afternoon and some mornings in the community at various sites we have obtained," Thrush said.

            Current work sites include the Upper Perkiomen Valley YMCA, Liberty Thrift Store, and Logan's Heroes Animal Rescue, Inc. Work duties for the students include cleaning, painting, deliveries, organizing, data entry, yard work and mailings.

            The second level students attend one work site per day for two hours with a job coach and work on enhancing their soft skills in a community environment. The program offers students the potential for employment at the particular work sites.

            Student Nathan Shaak, explained, "I have a good time at the farm (Logan's Heroes Animal Rescue, Inc.). I am learning how to communicate with animals and people. I am learning how to be responsible and follow what I need to do each time I go."

            Overall, the participating teachers and job coaches, feel the group of students are great and really enjoy working in the program. "They are exposed to a lot of different jobs so they can decide what kind of work they prefer.  Once students have developed soft skills in the school program they graduate to the community work sites," Thrush said. He added, the younger students get motivated by seeing the older students get ready to go to work.

            The program has expanded this year with additional in-house staff running things as opposed to previous years when the district hired subcontractors.

            Krys Willet, autistic support teacher, added, "Watching students who struggle with academics blossom in the work program is so rewarding Every student has their unique talents that this program allows us to explore and uncover."


 

 

 

 

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