Kris Lovelace and Zack Herrmann gain job skills by working at the Redmond Public Library and Redmond Tire Factory.
Helping young adults with disabilities gain life skills
Young adults with special needs are frequently faced with the dilemma of what to do after high school. With a little support and planning, they are often capable of holding jobs, going to college or living on their own. The Redmond School District offers a transition program that helps 18-21 year olds with developmental disabilities gain the skills needed to live independent and productive lives.
“Our philosophy is ‘Where do you want to be when you’re 21 and how can we help you get there?,’” said Kate Barker, a special education teacher who runs the program which is located at the Edwin Brown Education Center in Redmond.
The full-time program is offered to special needs students who have graduated high school with an alternative degree. Students learn independent living and communication skills such as how to use the bank and library, how to use a computer, buy groceries, and order and pay at a restaurant. They also learn vocational skills and gain actual job experience through various work opportunities.
“We have a YTP specialist who teaches a job class,” Barker explained. “Part of the class includes going out into the community and getting real work experience.”
Students gain customer service, cash register and janitorial experience working at the Humane Society, MacDonald’s and the program’s onsite Heart in Hand gift shop. They make many of the crafts sold at the gift shop with all profits going back into running the store and providing student field trips.
“We have lots of success stories of students who have graduated from the program and gone on to find jobs in the community,” said Barker. She cites students who have found paying jobs at the school district office, a hotel in Bend and Walmart to name just a few.
Participants are also connected to case managers who ensure they are receiving all of the services they qualify for.
“Our goal is that when they leave at 21, they have a busy, productive schedule, either as a volunteer or with paid employment, and are participating in community activities and living in a situation they are happy with,” said Barker.