The Sweet Taste of Success
The development of Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) continues across the Commonwealth. This initiative, mandated by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), is for students in high school. The Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) has approved six different services in Pre-ETS, depending on the needs of the students. One of these is After-School Pathways. It typically takes place in high schools, with a curriculum that focuses on pre-employment and four of the five core areas outlined in the WIOA:
- Job exploration counseling
- Work readiness training to develop social and independent living skills
- Counseling on post-secondary education and training opportunities
- Instruction in self-advocacy
Prince William DARS Counselors Leslie Diaz and Deana Holinka partnered with Christy Stegman and Tiffany Brown to develop a creative and fun opportunities for students this summer. The classes are typically an hour in length and held once per week for 8 weeks. For this series, however, the team received approval to hold two workshops in different geographic locations. Each one was two hours of classes per day for four days.
The first workshop took place in Sweet Zen7 Healthbar in Bristow, the home of healthy ice cream made to order before your eyes, and involved two students. The Owner-Manager, Letty Cintron-Patterson, offered the use of their back room for the classes, as well as interaction with their staff, which resulted in the following creative experiences:
- Classroom focus on resume development and completing applications.
- The opportunity to conduct an informational interview with the staff, a young adult who described how he got his first job, his transition to employment, the expectations on the job site, things he has learned, how to be prepared, etc.
- Class participants were able to observe the staff at work, working the machines and preparing frozen treats which they were able to sample.
- Digital portfolio was created including resumes, sample cover letters, applications, interview information, tips on appropriate workplace attire, interviews, work rules, post-secondary education and training options, and ways to self-advocate in school and work.
- At the end of the series, students received a certificate of achievement and celebrated with ice cream from Sweet Zen7 Healthbar with their choice of base, natural flavorings, and fruit mixed and frozen in a big bowl before them, complete with the magical, swirling clouds from the liquid nitrogen! See photos at graduation of Darius G. and Darius C.
The second workshop was held in the conference room at the Virginia Career Works (formerly the Virginia Employment Commission) in Woodbridge, where four students learned about pre-employment and the same four core, WIOA areas in a similar four-day workshop. The Choice Group teams around the Commonwealth continue to look for creative, engaging ways to respond to the WIOA requirements of Pre-ETS and partner with DARS to bring unique and potentially life-changing experiences to students in transition.