For exceptional students enrolled at high schools in Southwest Florida, the ESE (Exceptional Student Learning) program helps students with disabilities to progress in school as well as prepare for life after school. Thanks to Goodwill Manasota‘s High School Work Experience Program, ESE students from area high schools and the Easterseals Southwest Florida VIP Academy also benefit from real-life work experience through placements at area Goodwill retail stores. Students gain job skills training, learn the value of teamwork and, for those seeking employment after graduation, have the opportunity to be considered for open positions with Goodwill, all while earning school credit.
Prior to the pandemic, 36 students from high schools across the region and Easterseals were enrolled in the program. At this time, students from Bayshore and Venice High are still engaged in the program: Bayshore students are handling work projects on campus during school hours, and Venice students are working in-store.
The Bayshore students involved with the school’s career experience program have been assisting Goodwill remotely. Bayshore’s job coach, Bonnie Condor, has been picking up work for the students to handle in her office each week. The students are tearing size, pricing and blank tickets to assist in the sale of items in Goodwill’s retail stores.
Condor reports that there are currently seven students in the Work Experience program. The participants are in grades 10-12 and range in age from 15-20 years old. In addition to the work with Goodwill, the students perform other tasks on campus, such as keeping the construction lab in order and assisting with landscaping as part of a campus science program. The vocational rehabilitation representative from the district also works with the students to teach job skills and specific lessons to help transition them from school to employment.
“It is amazing to see the students develop confidence and a sense of responsibility and pride as they take on these work duties,” said Condor. “We are so grateful to Goodwill for seeing our students for their abilities and treating each of them like a valued part of their team. This can only be of benefit as they prepare to go out into the world and be productive members of society!”
In a typical school year, with students working in stores, the school districts provide transportation to and from the most convenient Goodwill retail location. Previous work experience and skill levels are considered for placement in various departments at the Goodwill store.
“We are extremely excited about this program: it offers students real-life work experience and, potentially, a job at Goodwill after they graduate, if they are interested in applying,” said Goodwill career development facilitator Morgan Howell. “The students learn important employability skills and gain valuable information about the world of work, such as what they enjoy or don’t enjoy doing, the value of teamwork, and the pride of doing a job well. We are pleased we found a way to continue this program with our Bayshore students, even as the pandemic continues on.”
This post originally appeared in the Goodwill Manasota newsroom. Read the full press release.