PREBLE COUNTY — For many high school students who receive supports through the Preble County Board of Developmental Disabilities, summer is a great time to gain valuable work experience, earn a paycheck and be a part of their community.
The Bridges to Transition (Bridges) Summer Youth Work Experience program in Preble County is making this happen. Just ask any of the 11 county students who are participating in these programs. Whether it’s working at the Aquatic Center on Main in Eaton, Shelton Fireworks or Timken Steel, students are gaining valuable job skills.
Nick Buckingham is one of the students working this summer at Shelton Fireworks near New Paris. His duties include customer service and stocking shelves.
“Nick is a very good worker and picks up each job very quickly,” said Wes Snedigar, manager at Shelton Fireworks. “He works great with Andy and Walter (his Bridges co-workers) and they are a very fast group. I have to make sure I have enough work lined up for them to do because they finish jobs so quickly.”
Nick’s biggest challenge is communicating with his co-workers. To work through this, his job coach spent time with him during a one-week classroom portion prior to the work experience. This allowed the job coach to gain a much better sense of his needs while preparing him for the new work environment. This proved to be very beneficial.
“One day Nick said Andrew’s name and it made everyone smile, especially Andrew,” Snedigar said.
In addition to the Summer Youth Work Experience program, Bridges offers Job Club and Career Exploration programs where students participate in a classroom curriculum to learn skills such as resume writing, job interview preparation and worksite etiquette.
According to people who support him, Nick enjoys going to work every day and he is happy when he comes home.
“Nick is very good at following directions,” said Felicia Bernier. “After he is shown how to do something, he picks it up right away and does very well.”
She added that while Shelton’s is a good job, it’s not Nick’s dream job. That would be testing video games and game units, where he’s a whiz. Nick was busy decoding a game on his computer and was soon playing it while being interviewed.
He also builds great Lego® models and enjoys plotting out the longitude and latitude of places he has visited.
Bridges is a Vocational Rehabilitation Public Private Partnership (VRP3) grant program, funded by County Boards of Developmental Disabilities (CBDD) and coordinated by the Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities Agency (OOD). This partnership began in 2009, and is now the largest VRP3 in the state.
The goal of Bridges is to expand career exploration and employment options for transition youth (ages 14-22) with developmental disabilities. Bridges seeks to enhance career exploration options and increase employment outcomes by developing a collaborative network of services that will assist students in achieving their employment goals.
Local Bridges coordinator Cindy Kaufman said the program is offered throughout the students’ high school career to build and reinforce successful work habits. Although summer is the busiest time for the program, students are contacted throughout the year to track progress and plan for future services.
“We believe everyone can work,” Kaufman said. “Bridges is about collaborating with business partners and engaging students, families, schools and the community in the transition process. It truly is a win-win situation for everyone involved.”
Nick’s enthusiasm, dedication and commitment to his job at Shelton’s is testament of that philosophy.