Students at Aspire Living & Learning (ALL) Academy are making the move from high school to higher education and careers at the transition program. When students have finished high school but need more time to explore their options and gain skills, the transition program offers several opportunities for growth including internships.
Internships are offered across a variety of settings. According to teacher Tammy Magnano, “We follow the students’ interests. One year we developed an internship at a local bakery, Lovely Cakes, for students who were interested in baking.” Currently, internships are offered at Hudson Paper Supply, Burlington Stores, and the Beardsley Zoo.
Supervisors at those companies set and oversee job tasks, while ALL Academy teachers and behavior therapists support the students with social skills and communication. Students attend their internships in the morning and come back to school in the afternoon for other programming.
Growth opportunities are available for students right at the Academy too. The Bee’s Nest snack bar gives students the opportunity to run a small business from start to finish. Students select the menu, shop for supplies, cook, and sell and serve snacks. The offerings have expanded from prepackaged foods to freshly prepared entrees and desserts. Classroom learning is put to practical use–writing marketing materials, negotiating with co-workers, working quickly and accurately, pleasing customers, and keeping the books.
For one student, Zach Krzykowski, the internship experiences are central to his growing identity as a responsible, successful adult. Zach points to everything he has learned beyond the specifics of each business, including how to work as part of a team and how to lead. He says, “I’m learning how to be responsible for myself and the people that I’m with.”
By having a variety of experiences, Zach has discovered his passions, along with some preferences, for a future job. While he discovered he enjoys organizing the stockroom at one site where he works, he finds it frustrating when he returns for his next shift and the stockroom is cluttered again. The landscaping work at another site is more satisfying because he can see his efforts build over time into a beautiful space for others to enjoy. At the Bee’s Nest, he’s discovered passions for both cooking and the quick pace of change.
Zach’s plan is to head to community college when he finishes the transition program. He’s looking at two possible careers – one as a blogger, bringing diverse voices together and the other, as a chef. He sees the internship and transition programs as pivotal to his success by helping him become “someone who makes an impact.”