Thanks to lots of heavy lifting, and exemplary organizational skills by Donna Jones (North Wasco County YTP Transition Specialist), collaboration with Kriss Rita (Transition Network Facilitator) and Jodi Johnson (Pre-ETS Support Specialist) the first ever Regional Job Club was recently held. In Donna's own words:
"As a Youth Transition Specialist and Job Developer for North Wasco County here at The Dalles High School it was a huge honor to be a part of facilitating our first Regional Job Club Event. We serve several counties including North and South Wasco, Sherman, Gilliam and Wheeler as well as Dufur and Hood River High School.
For those of you who are not familiar with Regional Job Club it was started in the winter of 2015 as an idea between then YTP Specialist and Job Developer, Donna Lowry, in Baker and Union Counties and Lon Thornburg, TNF for Region 8, to help provide some practical experiences and to open windows of opportunities for Special Education Transition age students in small rural communities. This provides these students with an opportunity to become socially engaged with their peers, experience new places, meet with various employers, employees, staff and other professionals. They can see many vocational options, learn more about the specific education and training involved and what potential employers are looking for in the hiring process. The strategy of Regional Job Club was to collaboratively work with Employment First teams, teachers, counselors and many others in an effort to integrate the purpose and mission on a broader scale. They also created a Job Club Hand Book that has materials, forms information and strategies. Basically, a person or team can follow these guidelines towards executing a very successful event.
It was an honor to be able to work with several businesses, professionals, teachers and staff. The event was held at the Columbia Gorge Community College and they embraced the idea of opening a forum that could reach so many students at one time. I worked with two very dedicated and passionate ladies from the college who did a fabulous job of coordinating a three-hour event that included a campus tour, interviews along the way with staff and employees, special speakers, professors, teachers and the President of the College. They also provided light snacks and beverages. Local organizations and businesses also joined us with information, brochures and give away items. Each shared their particular field and offered information pertinent to the individual student. There were 25 students in attendance. That is 25 students who more than likely would have never had this opportunity. The presenters and special guests were so engaging with the students and the interaction on the tours helped to promote more questions. As I listened to each speaker and guest interact I noticed that they spoke with them not at them. The end result was very positive and the comments from the students themselves were positive. The students also received an award of participation. Many of them had never received any type of an award before, ever! It was obvious that they felt valued. More than that, they now had hope that their dreams of being able to attend college, find a vocation, experience permanent integrated employment and a feeling of being more independent was not just a dream but could be their reality.
Having been one of those students, growing up in a very rural area with no hope of furthering my education or achieving my dreams, it brought home the fact that we can and should do more. Truly, everyone is employable. We need to give these young people every tool and every opportunity to see their dreams and goals come to fruition.
I owe a big thank you to the teachers and staff and especially Kriss Rita and Jodi Johnson for opening this door and helping to make our very first Regional Job Club Event successful. This will be the first of many more to come."
Two pictures of the event are posted below!