Program helps youths with disabilities learn sound work habits

September 19, 2011

Forty-three people participated this year in a summer employment program for Washington County youth with disabilities, the Western Maryland Consortium said in a news release.

Participants in the eight-week program were between 15 and 21 years old and had been diagnosed with mental and/or physical disabilities, such as autism, emotional disturbance, intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury and learning disabilities.

Job coordination was handled by the Western Maryland Consortium, a regional work-force development agency serving Allegany, Garrett and Washington counties.

The program was a partnership with the Division of Rehabilitation Services, which referred the youths to the consortium and funded the program. Another partner, the Maryland Seamless Transition Collaborative, supported case management and job-coaching support for 19 of the 43 participants. MSTC is a program aimed at improving postsecondary outcomes for students with disabilities and is operated through Washington County Public Schools.

“The 12 private sector businesses and 22 public and nonprofit agencies and schools that opened up their doors to these youth were critical and invaluable partners supervising and directing the youth and providing them an opportunity for learning and mastering of basic skills in a setting where they could develop sound work habits and attitudes,” the press release said.

Work sites included Gold’s Gym of Hagerstown, Broadmore Senior Living, Leitersburg Cinema, Meritus Health Care Foundation, Ace Hardware, Consign Design, Community Action Council, Book Savers, Community Free Clinic, Hagerstown Regional Airport, Memorial Recreation Center,  Fort Ritchie Community Center and Greenbrier State Park.

The 43 youths in the program worked a total of 7,525.25 hours between June 20 and Aug. 12, the press release said.

“The youth gained not only by having real life work experiences,” the release said. “They also had the opportunity to experience receiving a paycheck and learning how to manage their money.”

Most of the participants have returned to the public school system or to college, the press release said. Two of the high school graduates were hired by the summer work site to work while they attend college or other training, and several others have the promise of an employment possibility later in the fall, the release said.

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