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HHS Transition Program hosts conversation on workers with disabilities

Renee, a member of the Hudson High School Transition Program, serves residents at Wintergreen. The program, which helps students with disabilities transfer into their post-school lives, will host a community conversation on employment on Wednesday, March 28 at Camp St. Croix. Submitted photos

The Hudson High School Access Transition Program is looking to bring business leaders, community members and students with disabilities together for a community conversation on Wednesday, March 28 at 7 p.m. at Camp St. Croix.

The transition program works with students ages 18 to 21 with special needs as they transition into their post-school lives by providing students with career training and job placement. Wednesday's event will help further explore how to do this with the help of community members.

"All coming to the table to just try to figure out how can we bridge that gap between our young adults with disabilities and employment options for them," said program teacher Robin Rivard.

The conversation will help educate businesses on the role they can play in the process.

"Most businesses are really willing to do it and are excited when I present this information; they just don't know how to bridge that gap and how to access that population," Rivard said.

The program starts senior year for most students with job-readiness classes. The students then have work-based learning while on the job before moving on to interning or volunteering at a business.

The end goal is for each student to find paid employment during their high school career, as Rivard said that is one of the main predictors of success after high school.

Currently the program works with several local businesses including Christian Community Homes, TNT Auto, Knoke's, Anytime Fitness and more.

"It's been a positive experience and they've found how great it is to hire our young adults with disabilities," Rivard said.

Rivard works not always to fill current positions, but to create customized options for employment that would fit one of her students.

"I will just go to the business and look from the outside in," Rivard said.

Placements occur in a variety of industries with a variety of different jobs including serving, cleaning, dog walking, delivery and more.

"We always want to match the students with what they're interested in because then they're going to be a lot more successful," Rivard said.

The partnership fills a need for the business, and provides experience and opportunity for the students.

"It's a win-win for both," Rivard said.

The presence of the students also benefits those they work with, Rivard said.

"They really do bring a more positive view on life to the workplace for the most part because they do enjoy their jobs," Rivard said.

Though the program does not expect businesses participating in on-the-job learning and interning to hire students, Rivard said it does happen often.

"We don't expect that, however we're more than open to it," she said.

Currently Rivard has 25 students in the program.

"They just want a job and to get paid and want to make a difference and have a purpose in life," she said.

Rivard said everyone is invited to the event to welcome more ideas and possible solutions.

"I feel like the more diversity we have in that group the more cool ideas are going to come out so I just want everyone to feel welcome," she said.

Rebecca Mariscal

Rebecca Mariscal joined the Hudson Star Observer as a reporter in 2016. She graduated from the University of St. Thomas with a degree in communication and journalism. 

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