The “Black Hawks”
Grafton has made significant staffing changes at the high school since starting the Let’s Get to Work grant, which have led to exciting outcomes for students with disabilities. At the beginning of the school year Josiah Pledl was hired as the new Transition Coordinator, known as a Life Coach in their School to Life Program (Grafton’s transition program). Josiah comes from a coaching and marketing/business background, which gives him excellent skills for networking with business owners to find meaningful work experiences and permanent jobs for students. He hit the ground running by applying for a 5 minute “sales pitch” slot with the Chamber of Commerce, which resulted in at least one job offer on the spot. This sort of outreach in the community will help them continue to develop employer connections and raise awareness that students with disabilities want to work and are good employees.
One of the most unique things about Josiah’s position is that he does not carry a case load, which leaves him available to be out in the community as often as he needs to be to establish those valuable employer and other community connections. He’s also able to work more closely with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) and coordinate transition fairs.
Check out this recent article of the accomplishments in Grafton.
Grafton also welcomed Marty Armato, their new Special Education Director, at the beginning of the school year. Marty has been very interested in the transition work Grafton has been doing through the Let’s Get to Work grant and is supportive of sustaining the changes that have been made.
Where are they now?
Grafton worked with 7 students with significant disabilities over the three years of their grant funding. Only two of the original 7 students remain at school, Ben and Nathan. The others have graduated and are doing quite well.
Ben participates in work experiences at McKinley Place, an assistive living community for seniors and at his church doing some light cleaning. One of these experiences is paid the other is not.
Nathan (pictured left with bow tie) is a junior this year and has been very active. He recently presented for the first time to a group of 100 teachers who were learning how to implement some of the best practices of the Let’s Get to Work Grant. Nathan shared his employment story at this event and soon after participated in a Legislative Affairs day where he visited his local legislator to share why work is important to him. Nathan and his school team were thrilled to be formally introduced on the Assembly Floor that day. He also has a paid job at Cedars Bowling Alley and will be working for the Lakeshore Chinooks baseball team this summer. His mother didn’t think he would be able to work at the beginning of his participation in the grant and now he has had several work experiences (paid and unpaid) and is considering his college options.
The other 5 students who have graduated are all working and/or going to college. One student works for American Family Insurance, which is a job she started when she was still in high school. She is also attending a 4 year college. Another student is working at the movie theater and going to a technical college.
Grafton transition staff continue to move their school toward a more inclusive environment; four pull-out classes have been dropped this year. As a result of a staff shortage this year special education teacher Charles Pirlot now team-teaches all of his classes now. An unfortunate circumstance was turned into an opportunity for more inclusion in the school.
In Grafton DVR is a member of the core team for each student. Staff meet 2 times/month with the counselor and the counselor attends or calls in to all IEP meetings. Families report that their interaction with DVR is a positive one.
Collaboration with Service Providers
Josiah has begun working with two other job development agencies in the area: Haragan and Associates, and Jill Heath. Haragan has been successful in arranging work experiences for students and is still working on permanent paid jobs for students.