Throughout June, we will celebrate the graduating high school class of 2020. This third blog in the series highlights two students from Maryland’s Way2Work program. Stay tuned as the graduates featured in this blog will also be part of the VR 100 webinar series in August.
Congratulations graduates! A spotlight on Way2Work Maryland participants
Way2Work Maryland is a partnership between the University of Maryland’s Center for Transition and Career Innovation and the Division of Rehabilitation Services through the Maryland State Department of Education. It is a project designed to improve the academic and career success of students with disabilities in Maryland through work-based learning experiences. The project serves students with either an Individualized Education Program or a 504 Plan who will complete high school with a diploma or certificate.
Chris Jones of Lothian, Maryland
Southern High School, Harwood, MD
Chris Jones, who enrolled in the Way2Work Maryland Program to access work experiences that would lead to a career, wanted to share his love of animals with others, especially younger kids.
Before participating in Way2Work, Chris struggled to convert his passion into a career.
Chris was enrolled in special education during his secondary school years, having significant difficulties communicating, engaging with others and staying on task.
“At one point, I honestly thought of pulling Chris out of school… because Chris was just sitting there sleeping or not doing work,” said his mom, Meleisa. “But being part of the Way2Work program made him want to stay in school, and now he’s making decisions to continue his education.”
Way2Work connected Chris to Dalton Leonard, self-proclaimed “born entrepreneur” and the 24-year-old founder of FantaSea Aquariums, which specializes in aquarium maintenance, design and installation.
Dalton offered Chris a work-based learning experience in his FantaSea Aquarium. More importantly, Dalton helped Chris carve out a pathway to his future. Chris’ work with Dalton, caused Chris to move beyond wanting to work in a zoo, and he has set his sights on college, which he never considered a possibility until now, and a degree in business.
“Dalton convinced me to go to college, so I’m going to go to (community college) … and probably go into biology,” said Chris.
Chris wants to create places where kids can experience all kinds of wildlife, and he envisions a market for it.
“Everyone knows about lions and tigers, but these kinds of animals,” Chris said, pointing to the snake and field mouse displays, “they’re just as cool. Kids want to learn about them too.”
Lucy Bishop of Severna Park, Maryland
Severna Park High School, Severna Park, MD
Lucy Bishop has a smile that lights up a room, and her job at the local Safeway as a customer service clerk capitalizes on that.
As a young woman with significant developmental disabilities, Lucy faced numerous obstacles to getting through school to launch a career. However, Lucy is a determined young woman, focused on her abilities, not her disabilities, something that became clear during her participation in the Way2Work Maryland Program.
The program matches students like Lucy with community providers who, in turn, help them locate work-based learning experiences that are aligned with their career interests and skills.
“I chose to have Lucy participate in Way2Work because we found that breaking into the job market is challenging,” said Lucy’s mom, Sandy, who considered Lucy’s experience a success. “… and when you have the additional challenges that Lucy faces, we wanted to give her every opportunity to discover where her strengths were, to have some job experiences, and discover what was possible … and it worked out really well for her.”
Lucy’s work experience at Safeway fit her interests and skills.
“I love the job because it helped me learn how to be a good employee,” said Lucy. “It is working out for me because people are very nice … I know how to bag, and how to help people when they need me.”
We know how successful Lucy was at her work experience, as Safeway offered her a full-time job upon her graduation from high school.
“I love my job and want to stay there until I can’t work anymore,” said Lucy, who accepted Safeway’s offer.
“Lucy’s path is different,” said Sandy. “But now she knows there are opportunities for her, and that we have identified the services and programs that can help her achieve what she wants to in life.”
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.