Grant helps establish career pathways for students

Through a Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) or pre-employment transition services grant, Elkhart Memorial and Elkhart Central high schools have been given the opportunity to provide their young adult students with a job coach. This grant provides funding for job coaches in both high schools, specifically working with special young adults aged 14 to 22 years old.  The WIOA grant was only received by nine groups within the state of Indiana.

Two of Elkhart Community Schools’ established partners, Corvilla and Logan, are providing staff for this coaching service. Victoria Toney, supervisor of intense interventions explains, “We are hopeful that we will increase the number of students engaged in employment before they exit Elkhart Community Schools. We want to make a bridge between high school and adulthood, and our goal is to make it seamless for them.”

Catalina Vasquez, an Elkhart Memorial student, is part of the young adult program and has been working with Ashley Hout from Corvilla since January of 2016. Ashley is a transition consultant for students with special needs. Her job is to help the young adults get out into the community and help build resumes.

Ashley worked with Catalina to learn about her interests and identify what kind of jobs would be best for her. Catalina’s mother works in child care, an interest Catalina shares. To be sure this is something she wanted to pursue, Ashley made arrangements for Catalina to meet Paula Mumaw, the director of the Elkhart Child Development Center, to discuss child care as a career and identify a possible opportunity. Paula was impressed with the questions Catalina had and how she presented herself. This positive meeting marked the beginning of her internship.

In March of 2017, Catalina started volunteering 3 days a week, two hours each day, to learn how to work in child care. “I have already learned so much,” Catalina says, “I am learning good techniques, like how and where to sit so I can keep an eye on all the kids at once. I have learned to sign them in and out, as they come and go.” One of her favorite part of the internships is the kids, “kids run up and hug me, and they are excited when I come in.”

Over spring break, Catalina had an opportunity to intern part time. Her goal was to experience what it was like to work a part time job. Ms. Sharon, whose class she interns with says “this has been a very positive experience, Catalina is a real asset.” When Ms. Sharon was absent, Catalina stepped up to the challenge. She worked with Ms. Sharon’s assistant and received very positive feedback. “Catalina participates very well with the children; she does Yoga with them on Wednesdays and helps out with crafting games for the kids.” The transaction process has been very helpful for Catalina, “it makes me feel like I have gone from high school to the real world.” Already Catalina is discovering her preferences in child care. She likes working with the four-year-old group the best, and loves being part of the process of getting them ready to go outside and play.