A SIP Grant recipient learns to pivot

 Ever since he was a kid, Javeonte McIver has been creating costumes.

He started with superhero capes and ninja outfits. That meant teaching himself to sew and piece the parts together. While in high school, he took every art class available. Outside of the classroom, he watched videos on costume making techniques and practiced making more complicated designs. Now at age 19, McIver’s passion for costume design is stronger than ever and he’s looking for ways to turn his art into a career.

McIver is enrolled in the community transition program of Portland Public Schools. As a transition student, he’s been working with Trisha Rhoades, Vocational Transition Specialist, to find work experiences that match his skills and interests. Last spring, Rhoades helped McIver apply for the Student Internship Program (SIP) Grant that would cover forty hours of a paid internship. When his application was accepted, McIver and Rhoades were both excited at the possibilities.


SIP grants for transition students

The Student Internship Program began as a pilot in 2022 at the Oregon State Transition Conference. The goal of SIP is to support students as they gain employment skills in their areas of interest, and to foster partnerships between schools and their community. The first grants went to students around the state, in the Suislaw, La Grande, Centennial and Portland school districts.

The grant offers students an hourly wage of $14.75 for forty hours at their internship. As Rhoades explained, this payment makes the internships doubly valuable for students.

“Transition student work experiences are often set up as volunteer opportunities. When they do the same work as paid employees, that’s not equitable. But when our students are paid, they realize their work is worth the same as their peers. That’s a confidence booster and very motivating. We would love to grow the program and offer this to all our student interns who are out working in the community,” said Rhoades.

As the pilot year for the SIP grant program comes to a close, program coordinators Kriss Rita and Josh Barbour will begin planning for the next grant cycle. They’ll share the successes and challenges experienced at the 2023 Oregon Statewide Transition Conference. Their session will include information on applying for 2023-24 SIP grants.


Connecting to the arts community

Inspired by McIver’s talent, Rhoades began reaching out to the art community in the Portland area to create connections for work experiences for transition students.

“Javeonte is naturally creative and it’s been an honor to witness how he’s developed his skills over the past year. His dreams of working in the arts have challenged me to be a better vocational specialist and find ways to engage with those who can help make his dreams come true,” said Rhoades.

In his SIP application, McIver had to outline his strengths, preferences, interests and needs. For example, he knows that he is a good listener, he is interested in fashion and film making, he prefers a creative environment, and as a kinesthetic learner he needs to move as he works. Those qualities made him a perfect fit for an internship with Outside the Frame, a Portland organization.

Outside the Frame offers filmmaking workshops for marginalized young people who are experiencing disabilities, unstable housing, or other challenges. Learning the fundamentals of storytelling and film production gives them more than a creative outlet to share their stories—they gain communication and employment skills as well.

McIver received the SIP grant for an internship with Outside the Frame, but they ran into a scheduling roadblock. Outside the Frame operates outside of school hours, which didn’t work for McIver. He was disappointed, but he didn’t give up.


Changing plans, but not changing the dream

McIver could not use the SIP grant for a paid internship with Outside the Frame, so he and Rhoades brainstormed a new plan. They talked about other businesses that would interest McIver and decided to shift the internship to KingPins bowling and arcade.

 Even though the work was not in art or design, McIver found value in what he learned during his internship. “I like helping people, and I like the people I worked with there. Also, I learned to stay focused and to be patient,” he said. He agrees those lessons will help him succeed in any kind of job, whether or not they are in the area of costume design.

Working with Outside the Frame is one of his long-term goals, and Rhoades is helping to make that happen. From there, he hopes to get involved with a design studio. In the meantime, McIver designs and creates costumes outside of the transition program. These days, his favorite project is a neon green and black Spider-Jay suit with a mask that has spider eye lenses. He’s also building connections with theater, film, and cosplay communities.

Most of all, McIver believes in sticking to his artistic practice. That persistence shows up in his advice for other young artists: “Keep on doing whatever it is that you do best. If you do that your dreams will rise up.”

 For more information about SIP grants, contact Josh Barbour and/or Kriss Rita, Transition Network Facilitators