Program allows students to get feet wet with job opportunities while in school
When students are assigned to Rachael Davis’ transition choices-to-employment class at Bellefonte Area High School, they get more than just a talk about job opportunities. The longtime teacher and transition coordinator said modules in class are geared toward gaining employment. The two-semester program allows students to learn about transitions to employement and college, and complete a variety of assessments to help them identify where their strengths are and how to use those in fields of interest.
Google slides are turned into interactive problem-solving skills that are linked to a student’s IEP, or Individualized Education Plan, which allow them to learn life skills that would help them become successful in the real working world.
“The kids really like it and that’s the biggest part,” Davis said. “I’m giving them the lead to find the best fit, because it’s some of the things they’re interested in rather than being forced to learn about it.”
The lessons are separated by skills needed to perform the job and the responsibilities of the job, followed by videos and interactive slides. Because of that, and the program’s partnership with organizations such as the Acres Project, students are able to learn employability skills, which lead to job placements around the county and often follow them after graduation.
In addition to exposure and training for a variety of entry-level employment opportunities, Davis said students also learn how to read job advertisements and fill out applications. They are also exposed to financial literacy, communication skills, time management and more to aid in the transition to life after high school.
“A big focus is ensuring they know what resources are available to them in their community and knowing how to access them,” Davis said. “That’s where providers like Acres, OVR, and CareerLink really come into play.”
Right now, the transition program at Bellefonte Area School District is focused on employment for students with IEPs. Each week, the students from the transition choices class take a trip to Acres in Patton Township for further hands-on experiences regarding soft skills needed to be employable. This will turn into a job shadowing opportunity and by January, many of the students enrolled in the class will participate in a paid work-based learning opportunity facilitated through Acres and the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation.
At least two recent graduates are still reaping the benefits. With help from Acres, Christian Stitzer was employed at K2 Roots, a smoothie and juice bar in State College. Hunter Sell assists with Artisan Soaps created and sold by Acres. He is in charge of inventorying products and supplies, and entering the data into Excel. Students also often work to help prepare the home where Acres is located to get it ready for the Airbnb market, which provides them with experience in the hospitality industry.
Through the district’s transition services, the program also works closely with CareerLink and OVR that provides services for anyone with a diagnosed disability in pursuit of employment, college or other options, and offer support services and funding. To learn more, visit this site: BAHS partnership with CareerLink
As the district's transition coordinator, Davis helps students in their goals toward college, and employment opportunities during and after high school, along with living options after they graduate. She’s also working to provide more information to students interested in joining the military by using her own experience as a reservist in the U.S. Army.
District students receiving IEP special education services are eligible for transition services. For more information, Davis can be reached at email@example.com.
She also holds monthly OVR training targeted toward immediate employment opportunities and the process to apply for college. Providing just the right opportunity for students, Davis said, is a team effort that involves the business community, families and school resources that evaluate a student to make sure they’re assigned to a placement that is mutually beneficial for the student and employer.
Davis is also a life skills case manager and co-teaches English at the high school.
Adam Marchini started the first day on a new job Dec. 1 at Restek. He is responsible for sanitizing, cleaning and organizing the fitness center. It's a position he obtained through Bellefonte Area High School's transition services with Davis.*By Brit Milazzo, public relations director, BASD. Davis also contributed to this report.