Summer Intern Program Gives Special Education Students Valuable Job Skills

Summer Intern Program Gives Special Education Students Valuable Job Skills
Posted on 07/24/2017
Summer Intern Program at Work

With a food handler permit and a radiant smile, Indian Springs High School student Asante Thompson-Lake eagerly serves lunch to dozens of children at Jones Elementary School.

But 19-year-old Asante is doing much more than ensuring children receive nutritious meals this summer. In the process, he's learning valuable job skills that will help him land a permanent job once he graduates high school next year.

Under the supervision of San Bernardino City Unified teachers Nolly Fuyumuro, Manny Moreno, Barbara Pastuschek, and Martha Gates, special education students like Asante are receiving paid, on-the-job training in food service, custodial, and clerical fields to equip them with the skills needed to succeed in the workforce. The District’s Summer Intern Program, spearheaded by Board of Education member Michael J. Gallo, is being implemented for the first time by the District's Student Services and Human Resources Divisions.

For Asante, the Summer Intern Program has given him the skills to work in his school cafeteria starting in August. Most importantly, it has given him hope that he'll be gainfully employed once he leaves Indian Springs High.

"I'm learning how to be a good employee, like getting to work on time,” Asante said. “You have to have a job to have a future.”

The program, which began on July 17 and ends July 28, places students with cognitive and intellectual disabilities like autism in jobs at Jones, Henry, and Roberts Elementary Schools and a District administrative office, where they explore a variety of jobs and work settings to prepare them for potential jobs in the District and the community.

Cutting-edge programs like San Bernardino City Unified's are not common across the country, where many students with moderate to severe disabilities leave high school with little to no job skills, said SBCUSD Program Specialist Chris LeRoy, who leads the District’s Transition Program, a part of the Special Education Department.

"This program gives students experience and training in jobs that are offered right here in our own District and community," LeRoy said.  "We’re ensuring that students walk out into the adult world prepared for the workforce." 

As part of the District’s Transition Partnership Program overseen by LeRoy, more than 200 students with special needs have been placed in permanent jobs in San Bernardino and surrounding areas in the last three years, placing them on the path to prosperity. Some former students now work at the Amazon Fulfillment Center, while others work at San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino.

"This gives our students and their families hope because they realize they’re employable," LeRoy said.  "Some of our Transition students have become managers who have hired other District students. Every job is a success story."

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