The Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board’s Supported Community Work Experience Program has been recognized by the Good Shepherd and awarded each secondary school with the "Volunteer Community Service Award 2020."
“The Supported Community Work Experience Program has been supported by the HWCDSB since the mid 80's,” said Transition Coordinator/ASSDP Supervisor Theresa Haworth.
“This program is designed for our students with exceptionalities to enter community placements in their last final years of school – 18-21 years old. The program supports and assists the students and families into their individual pathway to transition into community so they may leave with a valuable life after school.”
For the past seven years, the program has partnered with the Good Shepherd which trains students to work in the warehouse to sort donations and pack and group foods that are donated by large companies. They also assist in keeping the store shelves stocked for over 1,000 families that rely on the centre for necessities.
Aside from these life skills learned, students also benefit from improving their literacy and numeracy skills, said Haworth.
In previous years, students would be sent to work in groups, but due to COVID-19, the program has been modified with health and safety in mind so that students go individually with their job coach.
“Each school has their time slot, a maximum four hours a week, for students who are interested in volunteering once they are done school,” said Haworth.
Haworth says that the transformation this program provides to students is incredible.
“When they go out in community, they are different kids,” she said, mentioning that by giving students a specific task to do, it not only builds their confidence, but it stimulates them, leading to less challenges in behaviour.
“It’s like night and day.”
“With pride and joy, our students and their job coaches presented the award to their school principal and shared with them their humble experience while volunteering at the Good Shepherd.”
“This is the first award our students with special needs have received in recognition of this program.”
“Our super seven principals could not hold back their gratitude in receiving this award representing their school in Christian service.”