Students gain workplace experience
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.