In partnership with the Charles and Salome Reymann Foundation, St. Vincent – St Mary (STVM) High School in Akron launched a Transition-to-Work program for students with special needs. The program, founded and operated by STVM Intervention Specialist Dan Lancianese, provides students with job coaching, training and skill development – including real work experience at local businesses.
Why We Need This Program
There are similar work experience programs for public school students with special needs. But Transition-to-Work is the first in any greater Akron private school.
Prior to Transition-to-Work, Akron area parents of students with special needs in private or parochial schools had only two options for their students upon graduation.
- Enroll their students in county services, and hope that suitable employment would be found in 2-3 years.
- Re-enter the student in a public high school to repeat a few grade levels, buying time and – cross your fingers – hope the student gets some work experience.
“This method is like throwing the child into the deep end of the pool,” states Dan Lancianese. Instead, Transition-to-Work helps students with special needs long before they graduate – preparing them to be fully ready to work in a rewarding job after graduation.
Transition-to-Work has its first two students. Before Chris and Joe can begin their vocational experience, Mr. Lancianese first started building a support team and plan between the parents, school, students, employers/businesses, career coaches and each student’s SSA (service & support administrators).
Here’s how the Transition to Work program unfolds:
- Each student takes an interest survey, which helps Mr. Lancianese match the student to a specific type of work.
- Student SSAs participate in an ‘intake’ process – anticipating the student’s high school graduation and building a plan that the student will enter the workforce upon graduation.
- Transition-to-Work partners with a social service to assist with each student’s on-the job work experience – which will last for a select amount of time.
- Mr. Lancianese is cultivating a list of workplace in the food, retail and other industries – including businesses operated by STVM alumni – to provide on-the-job experience for students in the program.
The first students in the program are excited – even if a bit apprehensive since all of these experiences will be new for them.
Their parents are thrilled that their children have this support, and are thankful that their children will have a plan in place at graduation.
The mother of student Joey Brown looks forward to her son having a variety of productive experiences in a professional atmosphere to help him find a good match. “He has lots of interests such as cooking, computer science, nature being in parks and traveling – just to name a few,” she states.
She sees this opportunity as a building block for her son’s future. “My husband and I want him to learn lots of skills that will take him far. Hopefully I would like to see my son getting a degree using computers.”
Kim Mashek believes her son Christopher will also benefit from the experience.
“My hope is that he will learn new skills from this invaluable experience, feel more comfortable with unfamiliar settings, and use appropriate social skills to communicate effectively with co-workers,” Kim says. “This training will allow him to gain a better understanding of the real world workplace environment and help him work toward becoming a more independent adult.”
While getting the program off the ground, Dan Lancianese is already planning for growth.
“I can envision an expansion of the Transition-to-Work Program that includes formal apprenticeships for higher functioning students with special needs,” he states.
The Charles and Salome Reymann Foundation is happy to make this dream come true.
“The Transition-to-Work Program fits our mission.” states John M. Reymann, Board Chairman. “It enables Akron area people with developmental disabilities to be successful in their post-high school life through employment that makes them fulfilled, happy and productive.”