For the past three years, Summit DD has partnered with Summit County Jobs and Family Services to provide essential employment opportunities for local teens. In 2016, the program impacted 35 people and then in 2017 it grew to 40. This summer, Summit DD nearly doubled the impact—benefiting 79 teens.
In previous years, this employment initiative was primarily funded by Federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and only available to students between the ages of 16 and 24 living in a family with income at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. However, this year Summit DD contributed extra funds to expand the employment opportunities to teens in families at any income level. The local funds have been used to provide job coaching, transportation, and payroll incentives to local business that hire students.
Throughout the summer program, Summit DD partnered with five private disability providers, including Louisa Ridge, Koinonia Homes, New Avenues to Independence, Bridges Rehabilitation Services, and Total Education Solutions to provide on-site job training with the teens. The summer employers included Waterworks Park, Akron Beautification, Vantage, Giant Eagle, Big Lots, Rockynol, Marc’s, Continuing Healthcare, City of Stow, Shaw JCC, Saint Edwards, and Fairfield Inn by Marriott. The teens also earned at least minimum wage while working with these business partners.
“The summer work experience programs are part of Summit DD’s plan to close the employment gap for people with disabilities,” commented Summit DD Community Supports and Development Director, Drew Williams. “Work experiences at a young age will result in college and career readiness upon graduation,” continued Williams.
A young woman named Alexandria was able to get summer employment at Fairfield Inn by Marriott. She gets to work side by side with another teen in the program named Connor. “I like working with him. He’s can be silly at times. But we make a good team,” shared Alexandria. “It’s fun being here. I use my paycheck to buy supplies for my art projects and gifts for my friends and family,” she continued.
Her job coach, Annie, from Total Education Solutions spoke very highly of the program. “The two of them get compliments for their cleaning all the time from staff and patrons. They work really hard together! Fairfield has been so helpful and accepting. I can’t express enough how great it has been here,” said Annie.
Another teen named Garrett earned the nickname “Produce King” working this summer at Marc’s. “Yeah I like to work at Marc’s. It’s pretty awesome,” commented Garrett. His job coach, Babs, from Bridges Rehabilitation Services shared that “…there is a great sense of pride for the kids working in their community. It’s a great thing to see!”
“Summer work experiences are part of a typical teen’s life,” commented Summit DD Superintendent John Trunk. “We believe that teens with disabilities can be just as successful in these work experiences with some extra support.”