Deciding what to do after high school graduation is difficult for any student, but for those with special needs, choosing a career path can prove challenging.
To help those graduates, the Ability Center offers a life skills program, which assists individuals with disabilities to develop skills for independent living and competitive employment.
The program provides youth ages 13 to 26 with interactive classes to develop employability and independent living skills.
In the employability segment, students learn communication, networking, teamwork and problem solving/ critical thinking skills. They also learn the importance of attitude and enthusiasm.
A component of life skills designed for high school juniors and seniors is the Next Steps summer program.
“This is a unique independent living and employment experience that prepares high school students with disabilities for the next phase of life,” explained Mallory Tarr, community relations specialist.
Students who complete the program are paired with local job sites to master employability skills through paid work opportunities.
Branden Dodson, a Springfield High School graduate, is one of those students.
Since finishing Next Steps, he has been employed three days per week at the Ability Center, where he performs data entry.
Branden credits his mother Timiko Kiner for introducing him to the program. “She learned about it on the news,” he recalled.
Branden appreciates the training he received. “I learned how to talk to and work with others, teamwork and how to interview.”
Data entry is something he enjoys. “I spend a lot of time on technology, and this is a pretty easy program.”
He found the Next Steps training to be very helpful. “I did a lot of things I don’t usually do,” he said, noting it also taught him how to establish a routine.
Office manager Lisa Justice commends the SHS graduate’s job performance.
“Branden has been such a help to us in updating our database. He’s very conscientious and a pleasure to work with,” she said.
For Branden, coming to work each week is very fulfilling.
“I didn’t know what was in store for me after high school. This showed me I could do things and be a better person.”
Prior to joining the Ability Center staff, he worked at the Epilepsy Center and Toledo Museum of Art. The latter job entailed monitoring children as they stood in lines.
“Watching kids in a line, thay was a little overwhelming,” he recalled.
While he enjoys his job at the Ability Center, he looks to the future and perhaps some day doing game design or entering the field of photography.
But for now Branden said, “I am just taking it one step at a time.”
– Jane Maiolo
Photo credit: Jane Maiolo