Fredonia High’s Work Based Learning Program a success

This year, Fredonia High School piloted a Work Based Learning Program for students with special education needs who are enrolled in the Functional Life Skills Program. This program was developed to support authentic and relevant work experiences in our community for students who otherwise may have difficulty obtaining such experiences on their own outside of the school day. The WBL program helps to foster social connections and communication for a population of students who often find this difficult to do on their own. This program is enabling students with disabilities to acquire the attitudes, skills and knowledge needed to succeed in today’s workplace.

Students selected to participate in the WBL program spend the first five weeks in the classroom learning and practicing the skills needed for each particular job placement. The next five weeks, they spend a few hours each day on the job with a job coach who is trained to assist in completion of the work tasks, teaching appropriate work behaviors, as well as helping to strengthen the interpersonal skills needed to be successful at each placement. The job coach also completes a task analysis and works with the student and the FLS program teacher to help the student reach independence on all tasks. This program also incorporates many other functional life skills necessary for independent living and encourages the development of self-advocacy skills.

Kristin Tomaszewski, the FLS program teacher at Fredonia, said, “This year, we had one student who worked in four different locations: The White Inn, Cash for Cans Redemption Center, Applebee’s and Fredonia Place. These businesses were exceptional to work with and provided our student with experiences and connections that will help him as he transitions to life after high school. The student we chose for this program did an outstanding job and we are so proud of him. He will forever be a leader and an inspiration to others in our program. Our student, and our student’s parent, felt tremendous satisfaction in the jobs well done and the connections that were created through the experiences at each job location.”

Tyler Shaw, this year’s student participant, said, “I have enjoyed meeting many new people and I feel like I am more prepared to get a job when I graduate from high school.”

Tyler’s mother, Lisa Shaw, said, “This program has helped Tyler grow in so many ways. He is more independent and shows more initiative in all areas of his life.”

Fredonia has been fortunate to have received a great degree of interest and support from a number of our community businesses that we approached to help us achieve our goals for the first year of this program.

“We would especially like to thank Aisling Heenan, Devin Jones, Colleen Jusko, Matt Cobbe, Jeremy D’Amaro, Jackie Palmer and John Lakas for their support of this program. As a result of the patience and guidance from these individuals, we have been able to develop a strong program that has provided authentic work environments for our transitioning students. We are looking forward to continuing our work with these businesses in the future and to expand our work to involve other business and opportunities in our community,” states Tomaszewski. “This coming school year, we will be partnering with the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities in order to increase our ability to provide additional opportunities for our students. We are excited about the many businesses we’ve had inquire about our program and how they can get involved.”

If you are interested in more information about the program, contact Kristin Tomaszewski at 679-1581, ext. 2500.

Other people we would like to thank for their support of the FCSD Work Based Learning Program include: Paul DiFonzo and the FCSD Board of Education; Geri Workoff, transition coordinator; Kristen Ferro, director of special education; Todd Crandall, high school principal; Hillary Kretz-Harvey, school psychologist; Vince Gugino, general manager of the Fredonia State University Student Association; Renae Moffeet, employment services supervisor at The Resource Center; Joan Santalucia, job coach, TRC Supported Employment; Lisa Dearlove, regional transition coordinator; and Mary Pritchard, OPWDD employment training program supervisor.