Easterseals Arc, FWCS, Ivy Tech Northeast partnership creates pre-employment training opportunities

Easterseals Arc of Northeast Indiana, Fort Wayne Community Schools and Ivy Tech Community College Northeast are partnering through a state grant to provide pre-employment transitional services to qualifying Wayne High School students with disabilities this spring.

Indiana’s Vocational Rehabilitation Services program issued the grant to Easterseals Arc last July. The grant is preparing students to learn and enhance their skills in five areas: job-exploration counseling, post-secondary education, self-advocacy, work-based learning experiences and workplace-readiness training. Participant eligibility requires that students either have an individualized education program (IEP) or 504 plan, which both serve as blueprints for meeting a child’s or young adult’s special education needs at school.

As Easterseals Arc began preparing the grant, the organization approached FWCS about the potential partnership, and FWCS officials identified Wayne High School as the school with the greatest need as it relates to pre-employment transitional services.

“In the past two years, our school—for its part in working with special needs students—has made a big push toward project-based learning. Our special needs students currently maintain a greenhouse, a lunch café and a supplies store within the school,” says John Houser, principal of Wayne High School. “I’m excited to see this partnership with Easterseals Arc and Ivy Tech because it will make the available training opportunities more rigorous, more real life.”

Pre-employment transitional training for eight students began Jan. 17 and will conclude May 11. During the 18-week, work-rotation schedule, the students will gain work experience in the following four areas at Ivy Tech Northeast: administrative services, catering/culinary, groundskeeping and janitorial/housekeeping.

Students will also be earning Indiana’s food handler certification during their training experience.

“Ivy Tech is proud to provide work experiences to individuals with disabilities,” says Kassandra Flanagan, program manager for Ivy Tech Northeast’s Workforce Alignment. “These experiences will not only provide skills training in various areas of our campus’ facilities, these experiences will also provide a stepping stone for one’s independence and self-worth.”

The students are divided into two groups—four students per group. Group A students train on Mondays and Tuesdays and participate in classroom learning on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Group B students train on Wednesdays and Thursdays and participate in classroom learning on Mondays and Tuesdays. On Fridays, the students focus collectively on self-advocacy and post-secondary education by visiting local colleges, hosting guest speakers and taking employment-related field trips.

Easterseals Arc is also providing each student with a small stipend to help incentivize participation while students are training at Ivy Tech Northeast.

“This collaboration with Easterseals Arc, Ivy Tech and FWCS has been a great opportunity for all parties,” says Thomas Summerville, director of adult day, transitions and employment services at Easterseals Arc. “Wayne High School’s entire administration has been phenomenal, and Ivy Tech continues to provide Easterseals Arc with great resources to help enhance the education and employability of individuals with disabilities. Easterseals Arc’s hope is to expand this pre-employment transitional services program to more schools inside and outside of the FWCS network.”

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