HSE Transition Program Provides On-the-Job Training for Students
Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photos provided by Hamilton Southeastern Schools
For the past five years, the Hamilton Southeastern (HSE) Schools Transition Program has provided on-the-job training to high school students who are in the Department of Exceptional Learners so that when they graduate, they have work experience under their belt.
“Our goal is for these students to be self-sufficient and integrated into the community,” says Cindy Shamblen, one of the program’s three job coaches.
Shamblen and her team partner with companies in the community who hire students in either a paid or volunteer capacity. Some of these organizations include Kroger, Chick-fil-A, Conner Prairie, BW3, Prime Car Wash, St. Vincent-Fishers, The Mower Shop, Fresh to Order, Panera Bread, Culver’s, Goodwill, Houlihan’s and the YMCA. Students get placed depending on their skills, interests and goals of their IEP (Individual Education Program).
“For example, we have a student who adores animals, so she cleans crates, replaces kitty litter and plays with cats at Robin’s Nest, a feline rescue located inside of Petco,” Shamblen says. “Another student loves computers so she scans old documents at Conner Prairie — a job that for many would be tedious but for her is quite meaningful. The cool thing about these kids is that they feel good doing things that help others. Even if that means washing, drying, folding and stacking towels in the YMCA’s wellness center.”
“Everything at the Y makes me happy — especially putting towels in the dryer,” says Andrew Scurlock, 18.
Brianna Gonzalez, 20 also enjoys her interactions and duties.
“I love the Y because I get to meet new people,” she says.
The Transition Program has three groups: VoCAL, located off campus at LAUNCH Fishers and is comprised of students who work 30-40 hours a week and have a high level of independence. Studio and Adult Roles are housed within the school setting; these students have paid or volunteer jobs in the community and continue developing vocational and independent life skills when in the school setting. Other programs within HSE and Fishers High School have students in all grades in Life Skills, Functional Academics and Resource programs. The students in those programs often participate in class and school jobs before being recommended for a community placement (paid and volunteer).
Some students work in restaurants bussing tables or stocking shelves. Others help in school cafeterias or primary grade classrooms. One student started volunteering three years ago at Stone Creek Dining rolling silverware, then later moved into a paid position. He has since graduated from the program but still hosts at the restaurant on Friday nights.
In September, the YMCA awarded participants in the HSE Transitions Program the Fishers Youth Volunteers of the Year award for their stellar service and passionate commitment, having volunteered more than 1,000 hours at the facility.
“During the presentation ceremony, the students were thanked for exhibiting core values of honesty, respect and responsibility,” Shamblen says. “Each student received an individual certificate and a standing ovation. They were beaming.”
Shamblen notes that the program cultivates independence, responsibility, self-esteem and communication skills.
“Employers recognize that these kids are special, and so they take them under their wing to help them blossom,” Shamblen adds. “Parents appreciate seeing their kids happy and able to do things they never thought possible.”