Tag Archives: transition

Advance Auto Parts is Advancing Inclusion

Easter Seals Greater Houston, in partnership with Advance Auto Parts, the Easter Seals National office, and the James Emmett Company, has begun a project to recruit persons with disabilities for positions within Advance Auto Parts stores and the distribution center for the Houston region. Advance Auto Parts has a company-wide initiative to increase the number of employees who have disabilities throughout the company. Both full-time and part-time jobs, across all shifts, are available at three Advance Auto Parts stores in Houston and at their parts warehouse in north Houston. Houston is the fourth city in America where Advance has initiated this project. A similar project began in Dallas the same day as the Houston project. Advance has a goal of increasing the number of employees with disabilities in every state in which they have facilities.

Easter Seals staff have reached out to Texas Workforce Solutions (TWS) offices to include them in the partnership through their services for persons with disabilities. TWS can provide equipment an employee may need, job readiness, and job training and job coaching if an employee needs assistance on their job. We have also made information about this initiative available to the Easter Seals Veterans and THRIVE programs.

When a person with a disability wishes to apply for a job with Advance, they should go online to https://www.advanceautoparts.jobs/en-US/page/retail-careers to determine the job(s) for which they wish to apply and contact Robert Williams at RWilliams@eastersealshouston.org to make sure their information is given to the James Emmett Company, which will shepherd their application through the interview process. Persons who apply through this initiative will receive a job interview and extra points toward meeting the requirements for their chosen jobs.

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Transition and Employment in the Pandemic

2020 has been anything but usual for the adolescents and adults Easter Seals Greater Houston serves and it has certainly been different for our staff. We have learned to provide services remotely and to help both job seekers and employers adapt to the changing circumstances in which people work and supervise the people who work in their companies.

In March, COVID-19 halted in-person services for high school students in our summer program which, after a two month hiatus, returned as remote services. Our staff, Robert Aranda, Ron Taylor, and Jacquie Privitera, had to figure out how to make lessons interesting and engaging for the students while meeting the requirements of the Texas Workforce Commission, the sponsors of the program. Our students and staff designed a commercial for a network consulting firm and then presented that commercial to a panel of judges from local corporations. All of this was done remotely, including a job performed, for pay, by one of our students for the networking company, Sepulveda Technology Consultants.

Job seekers, and the companies that employ them, have also had to adapt to the challenges of COVID-19. Early in the pandemic, a group of young men with autism, who were completing internships in the IT Department for Chevron, had to adjust to working from home. Despite the stereotype of persons with autism preferring solitude, these men had a difficult time adjusting to not being with their supervisors and coworkers. Their Employment Specialist, Robert Aranda, had to switch from providing face to face services to making contact only by telephone. After many sessions between Robert and the employees and supervisors, all four of the interns were offered permanent positions at Chevron. They still hold their positions and are successfully working remotely today.

For some workers, going to work in an office or warehouse is not possible because of medical issues or mental illness. Ron Taylor, one of our Employment Specialists, worked remotely for several months with a person with severe back pain, searching for the right opportunity. They found a position with Walgreens that let her work from home. Ron worked with our partners at Texas Workforce Solutions to procure a chair and desk that would support her back and let her work. As her personal computer was not suitable for her job, Ron arranged for a donated computer to be made available until she can purchase her own laptop. She is now working from home, processing orders for Walgreens and is on her way to having the funds to purchase her own computer.

Robert Williams, Easter Seals Greater Houston,
Program Director – Employment/Transition Services

Easter Seals Greater Houston provides Transition Services for youth ages 16-27 with autism and mental health conditions. Services include transition evaluation and planning, social skills training, family and community resources and goals which reflect the youth’s realizable aspirations in areas of education or work, peer supports, job placement, job coaching and supported employment. Learn more.

High School/High Tech is a community-based partnership of parents, educators, rehabilitation professionals and business representatives working together to encourage students with disabilities to explore the fields of science, engineering and technology. High School/High Tech also offers a mentoring program called RAMP – Ready to Achieve Mentor Program. Learn more.

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More Than a Transition – It is a Team Effort!

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Easter Seals Greater Houston has adapted to social distancing and other measures to slow down the spread of the disease by providing as many services as possible remotely for the people who come to us for help. Our staff in Transition and Employment Services have successfully provided all services virtually thanks to our partnership with Texas Workforce Solutions. 2020 marks one-hundred years since the federal vocational rehabilitation program was established. In normal times all job placement services, in fact all services, are carried out face-to-face with the job seeker in accordance federal regulations. This became impossible with schools, businesses, and state offices closed in March. TWS staff immediately set about the task of assuring that persons with disabilities continued to receive high-quality services from agencies like Easter Seals. This included completely changing rules and procedures to allow for remote services and relaxing other rules to make it easier for agencies to be paid and making our work with young adults and veterans possible.

DSC01505Through the entirety of #StayAtHome, we have received immeasurable support from individual TWS Counselors who are themselves adapting to new conditions by working from home with limited access to their offices. Without their help, we would not have been able to maintain contact with our clients and they would not have received the assistance they need. TWS support staff, also working from home, have kept the TWS system working which means we have the information and resources we need to help our mutual clients. This partnership has resulted in Easter Seals job placement staff helping over a dozen persons either gain employment or keep the job they have. Moving forward, we know that this shared experience between TWS and Easter Seals will mean better services for our clients, leading to a better quality of life for them and their families. Which is, after all, our mission at Easter Seals Greater Houston.

We celebrate successes large and small and want to congratulate four young adults with disabilities in particular. Beginning on March 3rd, four young men with Autism Spectrum Disorder began working at Chevron in an internship program that would, if they performed well, lead to full-time employment in Chevron’s IT Department. Chris, Luke, Shaye, and Steele were chosen from a pool of candidates that were screened and referred to Chevron by Potentia. At Chevron, they are assisted and coached by Robert Aranda, Easter Seals Greater Houston Employment Specialist. Robert also helped the interns establish eligibility for services from Texas Workforce Solutions. Chevron staff from within each intern’s section act as mentors and buddies to help them become a part of Chevron’s social family. During the course of the internships, Chevron, like many other businesses, began having their employees work from home in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. This proved to be quite a challenge for most of the interns. Robert worked with them remotely to overcome their anxiety at their changed situation and develop routines that allowed them to complete their training and work assignments. Given that these circumstances are new for everyone, Robert had to come up with new ways to communicate and solve problems without being able to see the interns at their jobs. Robert became part guide – part cheerleader as would any coach. All of the interns worked very hard to overcome the difficulties working at home caused. All four successfully overcame all obstacles and, in the last few days, were given the opportunity to become a full-time part of Chevron’s workforce. They will make the transition from intern to employee during the second half of May. Robert will continue to help the new employees face their continuing challenges as they begin their careers as IT professionals at Chevron.

The lives of these young men and their families will forever be changed thanks to Texas Workforce Solutions and Chevron!

Learn more about our Transition and Employment Services.

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Oh how the Time Flys

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Oh, the mixed feelings. The proud “mama bear” feeling. The ecstatic “look at them go!” feeling. The sad “they’re leaving” feeling. All of ‘em. I’ve got all of ‘em.

For the past six years, I’ve been working with at risk youth with disabilities in the Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program at Easter Seals Greater Houston. The goal is to prepare them for life after high school while also making sure they feel the support and heed the guidance that aims to keep them out of the juvenile justice system and aiming instead at college and work. As you might imagine – working with teenagers is equal parts fun and *enter face-palm emoji here*. While we work on resume building, interviewing skills, and career exploration, they are also testing, and subsequently, pushing boundaries every chance they get. I’ve learned to navigate the energetic mischievousness and get as much done as possible, while still begging a handful of class clowns to “sit down”, “fill this out please”, and “please stop throwing erasers at his head”. I can’t complain too much, though. Most of the time I’m laughing as I say it because they truly are some of the funniest kids I have ever met.

For the last three years, I have had the same group of students at KIPP Northeast College Prep. Since day one, when they were all feeling me out and seeing if they actually liked me at all, they still made me laugh. There’s the one who can do any sound effect in the book and always has videos of his plays in the past weekend’s football game to show me, the one who prefers to walk around barefoot, the one whose smile is actually legitimately contagious. They all walk up and hug me when I walk into their classroom each week – and not superficial hugs, either. I mean big, crack-your-back bear hugs. The fact is, though, it’s time for some of them to move on; my five seniors. I’ve prepped them for this since their sophomore year, but it crept up on me a lot faster than I would have liked.

Today in class, all five of them told me that they had been accepted to several colleges. This big, scary transition from high school was starting out pretty wonderfully and they were excited to share the news. Again, those mixed feelings. I am so proud of them and I’m so sad to watch them go. When I started at Easter Seals, I knew this program would probably be pretty life changing but I honest to God didn’t expect it to have such an effect on me, too.

I’m so lucky to be a part of something so amazing and to get to spend my time with such talented, kind, intelligent young people. Watching them figure out their goals, work toward them, and achieve them is really incredible. My heart is full.

I still have a few months to prepare myself in an attempt to hold in tears as they walk across the stage at graduation. But that’s nothing a big bear hug can’t fix. Congratulations to the soon to be high school graduates of the class of 2020! Watching you on your journey to college has been a blessing. Don’t forget to visit. I’ll have candy.

Love, “Miss Jacquie”.

Jacquie Privitera, Easter Seals Greater Houston, RAMP Coordinator/ Transition Coordinator 

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Celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month

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Abner Medrano was referred to Commissioner Adrian Garcia’s 2019 Summer Internship Program in June. Abner interviewed with Ms. Yhari Jones, the Coordinator for the internship program, and other staff from Commissioner Garcia’s office. Abner and nine other interns were chosen for the program. They visited a Commissioner’s Court session and met all of the County Commissioners and the County Judge.

He completed the onboarding process and began working in the Human Resources Department on Wallisville Road on June 25th. Abner has a Certificate in Office Administration from Houston Community College and was placed in a job processing mileage checks, filing copies of documents in staff personnel files, updating personnel spread sheets, and checking and verifying online materials that were then added to staff files. Abner’s work schedule was 8:30am to 4:00pm, Monday to Friday.IMG_1435

With the end of the internship in mid-August, Abner now has an addition to his resume and several nice letters of reference from his supervisor and co-workers. Thank you to Commissioner Garcia and his staff for making this opportunity available to Abner and the other interns. This great annual program offers young persons the chance to experience real paid work and to add something to their resume that will make a difference in their future job search.

Again, thank you to Commissioner Garcia and Precinct 2 staff. Abner came to Easter Seals via Texas Workforce Solutions (DARS) in 2018.

Abner and our Transition Program staff have complete a number of online applications, which have resulted in six face to face interviews.  While none of the interviews have resulted in permanent employment, Abner has worked with the Houston Livestock and Rodeo Security Division for the past two years.  This new opportunity to work and gain further hands on experience with the Summer Internship for Harris County Precinct 2 was a great opportunity to demonstrate Abner’s office skills.  This will be added to his resume for further enhancement.

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Easter Seals Greater Houston provides transition services for youth ages 16-27 with autism and mental health conditions. Services include transition evaluation and planning, social skills training, family and community resources and goals which reflect the youth’s realizable aspirations in areas of education or work, peer supports, job placement, job coaching and supported employment. Learn more.

Robert Williams, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Transition Director 

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Jason’s Journey

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Jason has been working at the Dollar Tree store on North Fry Road for the past year and a half. At Dollar Tree, Jason works as a Stocker. He stocks the snack chips, soft drinks and paper items like paper towels, napkins and facial tissue. Jason also helps out with keeping the store clean as he cleans the shelves and the perishable items coolers and empties trash.Jason F 2 IMG_0047 (2)

Recently, Jason started volunteering at Katy Christian Ministries in the food pantry. Jason says he loves to work and likes helping others.

When not at work, Jason loves to watch movies and go the church with his family.

Ron Taylor his Transition Specialist at ESGH says Jason is amazing to work with, ready to learn, on time and happy to be where he is appreciated.  Ron says he looks forward to his coaching days with Jason and that it reminds him of why he loves what he does for young adults with disabilities who want to enter the employment sector.

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Ron Taylor, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Transition Program

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Every Journey Begins with a First Step

Getting their first job is one of the biggest steps young persons make in their journey to adulthood. Recently, four young persons with disabilities made this step with the assistance of the Transition and Employment program at Easter Seals Greater Houston. Jason, Christopher, George, and Helmer came to Easter Seals Greater Houston by different paths, but they were all looking for the same thing, help with that big step toward employment and independence. HSHT MID 2017-05

Their paths to employment were different; George found a job two days after our Transition Program staff met him, the others took several weeks to several months to find the right fit in a job. Along the way they all found out what they are capable of doing and how hard they are willing to work to be successful. Their employers – Kroger, What-a-Burger, Dollar Tree and Food Town all report that they are very happy with their new employees. George even has customers asking for him when they shop at his store. Helmer’s employer is asking us if we have more people like him for them to hire.

All of us have had our first job. Some of those jobs we remember fondly, others not so fondly. But, we all learned valuable lessons that we carried with us to our next jobs. These four are learning those lessons now and will use that knowledge to continue to grow as they move forward in their careers.

Every journey begins with a first step. The Easter Seals Transition and Employment program can help make those steps lead to meaningful growth and a bright future.

Robert Williams, Director, Transition Program, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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Transition and Technology

Chris is a young man in his 20’s who came to Easter Seals Greater Houston‘s BridgingApps program because of his interest in technology. He and his mother wanted to understand how he could use his mobile device to help him be more productive and organized as he began to search for a job.  He owned a smart phone, but his phone was quite old and he didn’t use it for more than the basics, mostly entertainment. Part of the barrier to using his smart phone effectively was that he experienced anxiety about draining the battery, so he preferred to have it plugged into the wall, limiting his mobility.Transition1

Through a generous grant from the Hogg Foundation, BridgingApps provided Chris with a new smart phone and “one on one” trainings with Digital Learning Specialist, Tara Rocha.  During one of these sessions, Tara introduced the concept of a using portable rechargeable battery pack to Chris. Because it is small and rechargeable, Chris learned to plug his smart phone into this device that eased his anxiety about draining his battery, allowing him to be more mobile immediately.  He learned how to create calendar appointments, add items to task lists, back up his data, use contacts, and much more. Following each session, Chris has practiced the tasks at home with an at-home assignment.

Transition2When Tara demonstrated several app options for filling out forms using his smart phone, Chris became so excited that he could complete this task digitally! He found it difficult and laborious to fill out forms required for job searches and other kinds of forms as he moves into adulthood. Writing has been a challenge for him, but he is much more eager to use his phone for this task. We wish Chris the best of luck as he continues his job search, and we will continue to keep in touch as he makes progress towards his goals.

Cristen Reat, BridgingApps
Easter Seals Greater Houston
https://www.bridgingapps.org/2018/05/chriss-success-story-using-iphone-transition/

 

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Transition Success and Walmart Employee of the Month!

Our Easter Seals Greater Houston Transition team met Paul and his mother last June  as a Hogg Foundation for Mental Health Transition Age Youth Project of Easter Seals Greater Houston/DARS client.  Thanks to the Hogg Foundation, this project offers services and support for persons, ages 16 – 27, who have are on the spectrum and have a co-occurring mental illness and is designed to help youth become more independent and successful in their communities. The many facets of the program include social skills training, supported employment, summer internships, college classes at the Houston Community College VAST Academy, BCBA Services, peer supports, referral assistance, financial coaching, on-line driver’s Education and access to our mobile technology program.

Paul had just graduated from Sam Rayburn High School in Pasadena, Texas. His only work history was as a volunteer through a high school program with a couple of companies in the Pasadena area.  Paul and his parents wanted him to find a part-time job with a number of specific permanents such as close to home, after 4:00 pm and Monday thru Friday.  Together, Paul and his transition counselor, Robert Aranda, created a resume reflecting his volunteer experience and a reference list of his former supervisors.  They met to complete on-line applications, practiced mock interviews and reviewed social skills for interviewing techniques. Paul interviewed with companies through Summer and Fall.

In December, Wal-Mart called Paul in for an interview.  His Transition Counselor says he is a very likable and responsible individual and that he really wants to show his parents that he is able to expand his learning curve and become more independent.  Paul’s interview at Wal-Mart was a hit with the Human Resources Department and he was hired this past December as a Cart Attendant.  Wal-Mart was very accommodating with assisting Paul with the work schedule he needed.  Within two months, Paul’s supervisors noted his work great ethic, enthusiasm and customer service.  Paul was selected Employee of the Month for February!!

Robert Aranda, Transition Specialist, Easter Seals Greater Houston
RAranda@eastersealshouston.org

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Interviewing for the Future

Being a good interviewer is a skill we should all have. I got my first job slicing meats and scooping salads in our grocery store’s deli, but I imagine that’s only because my dad worked there. I was hardly interview ready and showed up wearing jeans. Luckily practice makes perfect and throughout the years I’ve gained the skills necessary to feel confident when I sit across from the person who may or may not make it possible for me to pay my bills. But, teenagers are often terrified of the idea of an interview just as I had once been.HSHT MID 2017-19

Interviewing skills, resume writing, soft skills, and professionalism are all heavily covered topics in Easter Seals Greater Houston’s High School/High Tech and Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program (RAMP) classes. We want our students to ace any interview they walk in to and that takes a lot of practice. Leading up to our annual Mock Interview Day, we talk about what they should wear and how they should answer popular interview questions as well as why they should smile, make eye contact, and have good firm handshakes. We do everything we can to prepare our youth and they usually seem ready to go but inevitably, when they line up in the hallway to begin the first of their three short mock interviews, the panic sets in. I can understand why – our volunteer interviewers are very professionally dressed, sitting tall and stoic in their seats and it immediately makes all of the students doubt their skills and forget everything we taught them. However, over the course of the day, something really great happens. You can see these young people feel confident and proud of themselves. They leave their first interview with a grade sheet that usually tells the same tale – they did well, but have a few things they need to work on. At the second interview, they’ve worked on these shortcomings and did a pretty good job! By their third, they’re old pros comparing near perfect scores with each other in the hallway. Watching a young person believe they can do something well is pretty amazing.

HSHT MID 2017-45This year, Carmen Phillips, the newest member of Easter Seals Greater Houston’s High School/High Tech team, hosted her own Mock Interview Day and included a fun new activity that got students talking with each other and moving around. By making each student their own business cards to share and use for networking with other students, Carmen was able to make every student social. Even the most shy or reserved students made an effort to network with others and talk about themselves in between mock interviews. This was a fun new mock interview day inclusion that we will be using every year to get our youth excited about sharing what they know with other people.

HSHT MID 2017-05Yvonne Kelly and I enjoyed watching students at our Mock Interview Day in League City cut each other in line to be able to do their second or third interviews before one another because they had gotten such great scores and couldn’t wait to do it again! We had a funny and boisterous group this year and they made the day so fun.

Watching all of our youth participate, feel accomplished, and actually be excited about interviewing is such a reward for us as each Mock Interview Day ends. We can’t wait to see what next year brings as we prepare our students for their transition out of high school and into the world of college and work!

Jacquie Privitera Miller, RAMP and Transition Coordinator, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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