This is the final blog in a series of three blogs in October from the National Technical Assistance Center on Transition (NTACT) to honor National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
Way2Work Maryland is a project designed to improve the academic and career success of students with disabilities in Maryland through work-based learning experiences. The project is open to any student with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a 504 Plan who will complete high school with a diploma or certificate in 2020. The project focuses on helping students engage in paid or unpaid work experiences, aligned with their interests and skills, while supporting a student’s academic success to complete high school. During the 2018-19 school year, seven Maryland counties engaged in the program for juniors and other students who are two years away from finishing high school. The program is a partnership of the Maryland’s Department of Education, Maryland’s Division of Rehabilitation Services, the American Job Center Network, and the Department of Counseling, Higher Education, and Special Education at the University of Maryland.
The following stories highlight the work done by those Way2Work Maryland serves.
Rose has always loved animals. Dogs, cats, horses, sheep—she loves them all. So, when she met her job developer, Wayne from Humanin, a job development/ career placement agency, there was no question about what industry to place her in.
Wayne was quick to connect Rose with a volunteer job at Chesapeake Therapeutic Riding School in Maryland.
Even though Rose had never worked in a stable, she quickly became one of the center’s top volunteers.
“She comes in and gets right to work,” said Kathleen Schmitt, executive director and founder of CTR. “She always has a smile on her face.”
Rose has achieved proficiency in grooming and feeding the horses, mucking stalls, and performing general barn duties.
When Rose completes this work-based learning experience, she will be qualified to work as a trainee at a horse farm anywhere.
Lisa Miceli, Rose’s mom and biggest advocate, said, “I want her to keep coming here, even if she gets another job. It’s been such a great experience for her.”
Karli dreamed of finding a job that would combine her three loves: photography, art and design. Her first work-based learning experience was heavy on the art, but light on photography and design.
Her new job at Silver Linings Lavender, which she got through Way2Work, has everything she was looking for, but it took a positive attitude to find it.
Karli’s first day on the job was the day of the Pride Parade in Westminster, Maryland, one of the busiest retail days of the year. Traffic in the small boutique on Main Street was non-stop all day.
“There was a line out the door. Products were flying off the shelf,” says Dawn Pritchard, Silver Linings Lavender’s owner.
Having Karli’s help that day was really important; she re-stocked the shelves as quickly as they became empty.
“I can’t sell product if it’s not on the shelf,” says Dawn. “That day, I didn’t lose any money.”
According to Dawn, “To be in retail, you really have to be an extrovert.”
Karli is a shy person, and interacting with customers wasn’t her favorite thing. After that first day, Karli thought, “I wouldn’t want to do this for a living.”
Not wanting to interact with customers in a store could be a problem for someone who is shy like Karli; however, there’s a silver lining.
Dawn opened Silver Linings Lavender in 2013 as an online store, but it wasn’t until September 2017 that she expanded into a brick and mortar store. The majority of her business is still online, and that’s where Karli shines.
Now, at Silver Linings Lavender, Karli is learning to do online marketing and using her love of photography, art and design in a retail setting.
Dawn gave her an office and a computer, with software such as Photoshop and InDesign.
It’s a win-win for employer and employee.
“I didn’t have anyone to teach me (about business),” said Dawn, “so I’m happy to share what I know and spread the word.”
By day, Coardell is pursuing a trade in welding at Worcester Technical High School. He doesn’t love welding, but it’s better than any of the jobs he’s had at MacDonald’s or Walmart, or washing dishes at a restaurant in Ocean City, Maryland
Outside of school, though, Coardell has other passions. He amazes audiences with his dance moves. He has performed in venues all over Maryland’s Eastern Shore as well as in New York, and he dreams of making a living as a dancer and rapper one day.
Someone with the soul of a dancer might feel restricted and confined in the tight quarters of a welding booth, and the protective gear that welders wear—including a heavy mask—might make it hard for a dancer to move his feet.
Way2Work helped Coardell get a job at Go Glass, a shop that specializes in residential, commercial and auto glass. At Go Glass, Coardell has room to bust a move now and then.
“I finally found something I enjoy doing,” he says.
In addition to having room to move when he has the urge, a crucial piece of Coardell’s success is his mentor, Jeffrey Sewell.
Having a supportive person to show Coardell the ropes and to nudge him when he gets distracted has meant the difference between floundering and feeling comfortable on the shop floor.
Jeff is teaching Coardell all about the glass business—how to cut and install auto glass, table tops, mirrors and doors. He’s also teaching Coardell how to make window and door screens for homes and businesses.
Coardell has learned how to use a tape measure, how to cut glass, and how to keep the blades sharp by storing them in auto coolant. Each time Jeff gives Coardell a little bit more responsibility, Coardell grows more confident.
“He’s a good worker,” said Jeff. “He comes in and gets right to work.”
Way2Work Coordinator, Tammy Hauck, said she knew the environment Go Glass would accommodate Coardell’s needs. “It suits him,” said Tammy. “It gives him more space to be himself.”
After just two months on the job at Avenue Tailor and Cleaners in Westminster, Maryland, Tim is already looking forward to a big promotion.
This summer, he will receive management training and take over as manager of the store’s Gettysburg, Pennsylvania location.
“Dry cleaning was never my first thought,” says Tim. “But it worked for me.”
Tim has always wanted to work at or own a shoe store, so his job developer, Megan O’Neill of Schapiro Training & Employment Program (STEP), a Carroll County, MD supported employment agency, thought the small business on Main Street might be a good fit. She was right.
The experience he has gained at Avenue is pointing him toward college and a degree in business.
Working two-three hours a day, five days a week, Tim drives the company vehicle and picks up and delivers dry cleaning in four locations around Carroll County, Maryland. In his new job, he will learn how to work the front counter, interact with customers and gain an insider’s view of the operation.
According to Tim’s dad, Brian Wall, the job at Avenue Tailor, for which Tim is paid, has made a tremendous change in Tim.
Brian sees his son being more engaged in school and having a more positive attitude in general. Tim even signed up for the SATs on his own to the surprise and delight of his parents.
“I wish Way2Work would have been available when I was in high school,” said Brian. “You can’t put a price tag on experience.”
The National Technical Assistance Center on Transition (NTACT), funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), assists state and local education agencies, state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies and VR service providers in implementing evidence-based and promising practices to help ensure students with disabilities, including those with significant disabilities, graduate prepared for success in postsecondary education and employment.
Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees, and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. Articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.
My 21 year old son graduated from Stephen Decatur in 2020 during the pandemic. He was an IEP student. He is employable but doesn’t drive and needs close supervision. He is smart but lacks common sense and cannot follow directions. He loves music, mythology, and astronomy. I have tried to help him but it truly is who he is. Can Way2Work help him?