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 program is broken up into two semesters – the first being transition to employment and the second as transition to college. Students 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 allows 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 their 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 that provides services for anyone with a diagnosed disability in pursuit of employment, college or other options, and offer support services and funding.