The excitement of sharing accomplishments and adventures when they returned to school this year was just a part of what made this new collaborative initiative an amazing success for young adults with disabilities in the Mountain Brook School System.
This Summer was the beginning of a year-long, ongoing effort to prepare a group of high school students with disabilities to enter the workforce and afford them every opportunity for long-term success. United Ability piloted a collaborative program engaging nine Mountain Brook High School students in a paid internship program at St. Vincent’s.
Under the direction of United Ability’s Employment Services department and in partnership with TouchPoint Services and the Mountain Brook School System, nine students participated in a five-week paid internship program at the St. Vincent’s Hospital cafeteria. The results of this unique program not only included two students receiving job offers, but also the entire group receiving valuable experience and training.
With funding from the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services, students participated in the paid internships while they learned various tasks in the commercial kitchen. They experienced work in a wide range of areas including: the bakery, pizza bar, dish room, stock room, meal delivery, serving line, cold food prep and data entry.
During the internship program, each student participated in daily classes focusing on job readiness skills, social behaviors, how to deal with problems on the job and much more.
“The program gave my son more confidence by allowing him to try different things," shared Toby Wilcox, whose son, Cole, participated in the pilot program. “Often children with special needs want repetition, this got him out of his comfort zone and helped him learn several new jobs."
Dr. Gary Edwards, United Ability CEO, says, “We wanted to do this because it’s not always easy to find a job without any experience. This was an amazing opportunity for the students to gain hands-on experience and job training while receiving encouragement and direct feedback on what’s working or what may need improving.”
Gaining experience was a critical piece to this program. “This was my son’s first job, and he enjoyed going to work every day and working hard," shared Camille Latimer. She relays that she’s “thankful for the opportunity he had to learn job skills in a safe environment where everyone was patient and kind. He was made to feel successful, which made the whole experience encouraging for us."