From ASPIRE to Hire

Mikayla is like many recent high school graduates. She’s closing the chapter on her high school career and entering a new phase of adulthood with a job and new responsibilities. However, Mikayla is also a trailblazer of sorts.

Mikayla is the first student to be hired after completing the ASPIRE program, making her a pioneer for this relatively new program.

During her final year of high school at Springfield, Mikayla participated in the Summit DD-Koinonia ASPIRE program. This program, originally piloted in the Woodridge school district, was created to assist high schoolers with developmental disabilities. Teachers and Koinonia staff work with the teens to identify interests and strengths, and then provide guidance and on-the-job experience to prepare students for employment after high school.

“We want to build students’ skills – and natural supports at the job site – to get them job-ready,” explained Matt Magaw, Transition Services Supervisor for Koinonia.

Mikayla worked more than 120 hours throughout the school year, starting as a volunteer and then eventually leading to her being hired at McDonald’s.  “We hope she’s just the first of many,” Matt expressed.

Since graduating, Mikayla works a few hours a day, five days a week. She works through her tasks methodically as she pitches in to keep the restaurant clean for her customers. Magaw, who is also Mikayla’s job coach, describes her as “focused.” He shared that she is doing well and her co-workers are starting to get to know her better. She hopes to increase her hours in the future, as well.

Thanks to this innovative program for young adults, students like Mikayla, will now have more opportunity for community employment after high school.

“Everyone wants to feel a sense of belonging,” Matt shared. “And employment is definitely part of her future.”

Read More

Read about the Woodridge pilot that launched the ASPIRE program.

Find out about other innovative programs that Summit DD is working on for transition-age youth.

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