First Jobs Program: Week 2

June 24, 2016  |  By Shelle Hamer

The First Jobs Program is a dream come true for me. Having spent 35 years in the public school system, I recognized a gap between the classroom and the real world, especially when it comes to getting a job. Though it can be challenging for any young person to obtain their first job, it is often more difficult for a person with a vision impairment to do so. And the support needed to make the transition is often missing from the curriculum for students with severe vision impairments.

Thus, the idea for the First Jobs Program was born as a way to bridge the gap. We began with a career fair in April at The Chicago Lighthouse North where our participants learned about various career options and met with successful adults with vision impairments. For many of our students, this was their very first experience in career preparation and the session was eye-opening, to say the least.

Then, beginning on June 13, we jumped feet first into our summer-long program.

Week one provided intensive training on a variety of topics related to obtaining and maintaining a job including communication skills, financial responsibilities, conflict resolution and job accommodations. Students crafted resumes, learned interview skills and practiced mock interviews. We discussed disability disclosure, including how, when and if to share about a disability. We were also fortunate to have volunteer mentors who provided their time, wisdom and commitment to helping young adults!

Then, the students completed real-life job applications and went on to interview with the hiring manager of Mariano’s. We are proud to report that all of them were offered positions within the store! Thanks to Orientation & Mobility specialist Jared Bozigian, the participants quickly became oriented with the store.

Week two was go time! Our students just completed their first week of being on the job and they did great. Four out of five students are working in various roles at Mariano’s on Waukegan Rd. and the fifth student is based at Lighthouse North helping with a variety of PR assignments. Now, they have another seven weeks to grow in their roles and continue building their professional foundations. In just two short weeks, I have already witnessed remarkable growth among each of the students. They have all increased their skills in interviewing, communicating and representing themselves. I have seen tremendous spikes in their confidence and self-efficacy. And, they now have a first job to place onto their resumes! From here, I see no barriers for any of them to reach their dreams and hope to hear of their great accomplishments in the future.

Follow our journey over the next few weeks. We will be sharing the stories of our five participants and you won’t want to miss it!

— Shelle

Shelle Hamer is a leader in special education. She brings 35 of experience in the public school system to her role as manager of children and youth enrichment programs at The Chicago Lighthouse North. Shelle has developed such innovative programs as First Jobs and Summer in the City.

Learn more about the First Jobs Program offered through our Teen Transitions Program.

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