Stu­dents gain work­place ex­pe­ri­ence

The Boyertown Area Times - - FRONT PAGE - From Jodie Daniels Ch­est­nut Knoll

For many youths, sum­mer break is full of first-time ex­pe­ri­ences—first va­ca­tion, first love, first con­cert or first job.

Thanks to Good­will Key­stone Area’s Sum­mer Work Ex­pe­ri­ence As­sess­ment Pro­gram (SWEAP) and Ch­est­nut Knoll Per­sonal Care and Mem­ory Care in Boy­er­town, four high school stu­dents from Boy­er­town Area High School ex­pe­ri­enced work­ing their first jobs this sum­mer.

“We en­joyed hav­ing the stu­dents as­sist us at Ch­est­nut Knoll in the En­vi­ron­men­tal Ser­vices depart­ment. They prac­ticed ba­sic work skills while lend­ing a hand around the se­nior com­mu­nity,” said Crys­tal Varady, di­rec­tor of En­vi­ron­ment Ser­vices at Ch­est­nut Knoll. “Also, the res­i­dents en­joyed hav­ing the stu­dents around for the sum­mer; it was a win-win sit­u­a­tion!”

SWEAP re­ceives fund­ing

through the Of­fice of Vo­ca­tional Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, Tem­po­rary As­sis­tance for Needy Fam­i­lies (TANF), and pri­vate grants. The pro­gram gave teens and young adults with dis­abil­i­ties, be­tween the ages of 16 and 21, the op­por­tu­nity to gain re­al­world work ex­pe­ri­ence, in­clud­ing earn­ing their first pay­checks.

The stu­dents worked at Ch­est­nut Knoll in the En­vi­ron­men­tal Ser­vices depart­ment three days a week, for six and a half hours each day from June 18 to Aug. 1. Their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in­cluded clean­ing the din­ing room and res­i­dent apart­ments, laun­dry ser­vices, as well as help­ing main­tain tidi­ness through­out the com­mu­nity.

Lu­cas Bul­lock en­joyed work­ing at Ch­est­nut Knoll. He ex­pe­ri­enced not only his first job but also his first time us­ing a car­pet cleaner. But, when asked what he liked best, “I liked earn­ing my pay­check,” he said with a smile.

When asked what he learned from this ex­pe­ri­ence, Xavier Wertz noted, “to be ready to work when you get to work.” A valu­able les­son Wertz learned and fu­ture em­ploy­ers will ap­pre­ci­ate.

The group did not just learn nec­es­sary work skills but some­thing just as im­por­tant—com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

Wertz added with a grin and a nod, “I got to use walkie-talkies, which helped me talk with other staff mem­bers. I met many dif­fer­ent peo­ple and res­i­dents, and learned what they get to do ev­ery day.”

Kym Gregory, the SWEAP work­site su­per­vi­sor, over­saw the four stu­dents dur­ing their time at Ch­est­nut Knoll. She pro­vided coach­ing and men­tor­ing, and made sure work­site agree­ment tasks were suc­cess­fully com­pleted. She also en­cour­aged the stu­dents to make con­nec­tions with res­i­dents.

“I en­cour­aged the stu­dents to in­ter­act with the res­i­dents, to be re­spect­ful and to get to know them. By open­ing up to the res­i­dents, they learned to work on their so­cial skills,” said Gregory. “It was a great ex­pe­ri­ence for ev­ery­one, and I’m hop­ing to do it again next year.”

The over­all goal of SWEAP is for ev­ery stu­dent to have a pro­duc­tive and pos­i­tive work ex­pe­ri­ence that will pre­pare him or her for fu­ture em­ploy­ment. Each stu­dent re­ceives two eval­u­a­tions over the seven weeks; stu­dents can use these as­sess­ments when look­ing for a job.

“All four stu­dents had suc­cess­ful work ex­pe­ri­ences,” said Joyce Burkholder, the SWEAP youth man­ager at Good­will Key­stone Area. “This speaks well of the pro­gram, and the work­site su­per­vi­sor.”

For more in­for­ma­tion about Ch­est­nut Knoll and SWEAP, please call 610473-8066.


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