Teamwork and Decision-Making
“Beginning at the Middle School level, we’re stressing teamwork, problem-solving, and decision-making,” explains Mike Teuber, Director of Transition Services. In a group-based work skills class, Middle Schoolers work on a variety of projects, including “Dinners to Go,” a meal preparation service. These projects introduce the steps involved in work before students venture outside the school and into the community with Project Bridges. “We want students at this level to think about doing something for others, and feel the difference between task performance and academic performance,” adds Teuber.
Variety and Self-Reflection
Once students transition to Upper School at age 15, their vocational goals shift. Upper School students are presented with a variety of work options that encourage them to reflect on their work preferences. In-house work, such as flower delivery or assisting the Cotting Maintenance staff, introduces students to several jobs around the school building. At this stage, Cotting also offers Vocational Electives – from jewelry-making to preparing smoothies – and the World of Work course, which explores career awareness from the classroom perspective. Students leave World of Work with a resume and a better understanding of the process required to get a job. After one year in the Upper School, most students are adequately prepared to transition to work in the community at a Project Bridges site.
Capstone and Beyond
Our Capstone program is designed as a culminating experience for our 18-22 year old students, offering an optimal mix of academic, vocational, and transition skills best suited for each student. Because students leave Cotting no later than age 22, it is our hope that some amount of paid work, if appropriate, is a reality when they graduate. Therefore, at the Capstone level, these students are really beginning to hone in on their vocational interests. “In some cases, we’re working backwards to see what adult services might be available for students post-Cotting, and cater the Project Bridges experience to best prepare them for that next step,” says Teuber. Many of our Capstone students are in the community twice a week, working at two different jobs in separate domains, to achieve that skill-building variety. Other Capstone students choose to use their Project Bridges time to take a class at a community college. “We want students at this level to be able to articulate what they can do and understand what they’re ready for, while also achieving their goals as young adults.” To accommodate this greater focus, this year Project Bridges has added 5 new employer partners and planned on nearly 90 weekly job slots for our students. Just last year, a student who had worked at Lexington Montessori School through Project Bridges was then hired after her graduation to work there on a part-time basis. Teuber hopes this is a trend that continues: “The success of Project Bridges relies on everyone: parents, teachers, employers, and students. We hope to continue to grow this program and do the best we can to prepare students for the world of work after Cotting.”
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