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In high school and on the job
John Zeeck washes a golf cart at the London Country Club, where he worked this summer as part of Bridges To Transition, a work experience program geared primarily for high school-age students.
Sue Wheeler is the banquet and catering director at the London Country Club. She prepares meals for member dinners, business meetings, junior golf lunches and special events. At times, her schedule is hectic. This summer, extra sets of hands—and youthful ones at that—made the workload lighter.
One of those sets of hands belongs to John Zeeck, 16, an enrollee in the Bridges To Transition program coordinated by the Madison County Board of Developmental Disabilities (MCBDD). The program provides guided work experience and a paycheck to high school age youths prior to graduation.
For three hours a day, four days a week, from June 18 to July 26, Zeeck and another enrollee washed dishes and produce, baked cookies and brownies, and cleaned the dining room.
“They’ve been very, very helpful,” Wheeler said. “They did things I don’t have a lot of time to do, like prep the dining room... We’re going to miss them.”
Zeeck hopes to work at the country club again next sum-mer. As for what he liked most about the job, he said, “I love cooking food.” He also liked getting a paycheck and often used his earnings to treat his mom and brother to dinner at Subway.
In addition to his work in the kitchen, Zeeck picked up trash on the golf course and washed windows, folded towels, and ran the sweeper around the clubhouse.
The London High School student was one of eight Madison County residents who participated this summer in Bridges To Transition, now in its second year. Others worked at Presbyterian Day Care, MATCO Services and Madison County Hospital.
“It’s a beginning for these kids as far as becoming contributing members of the community,” said John LaCivita, MCBDD organization services director. “For parents who wonder, ‘What’s after school,’ this gives them a little peace of mind. They realize there are opportunities for their son or daughter after high school.”
Bridges To Transition pairs each participant with a job coach who meets them at the job site each day to review and demonstrate specific tasks, then provide support throughout the shift. They also teach them skills that apply to any work setting, such as proper dress, good personal hygiene, and employer expec-tations.
“The program expands on their natural abilities and focuses on their strengths,” said Jennifer Baldwin, a coach in the program. “They adapt so quickly. It shows what they can do, not what they can’t.”
LaCivita counts Bridges To Transition as “one of the neatest” programs his department offers.
“I don’t think we can give them a better experience to prepare them for adulthood,” he said.
LaCivita credits the program’s success to collaboration. Behind the scenes, MCBDD partners with the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission, Ohio Association of County Boards, Union County Board of Developmental Disabilities and Custom Staffing.
“Through this collaboration, we have access to grant money to pay job coaches, participants’ salaries, and transportation to and from the work sites,” he said.
At ground level, it’s the coaches, the job site partners and the young people themselves who make the program work.
“When that many people are involved, you can accomplish so much,” he said.
For more information about Bridges To Transition, contact John LaCivita or Kelly Nicolaysen, organization services coordinator, at (740) 852-7050.
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