Palm Avenue student learning job skills

Video – Palm Avenue, Alden Road programs give on-the-job training for students with disabilities

Feb. 11, 2022 – For Palm Avenue Exceptional Student Center teacher Cheryl Clavon, it’s simple – students with disabilities can gain employment, and they’re doing so on a regular basis.

“They can in fact get jobs, they can maintain those jobs, and they can be very successful on those jobs,” said Clavon.

Clavon is one of many Team Duval educators helping students and their families realize these goals through special programs. Our video crew recently got a first-hand look at two of them: the Enterprise Programs at Palm Avenue, and Project SEARCH at Alden Road Exceptional Student Center.

Whether they are learning essential skills in the classroom or getting on-the-job training, teachers say students are being empowered to become productive members of society.

Enterprise Programs at Palm Avenue Exceptional Student Center

Through the school’s Business Enterprise program, students are gaining valuable skills and experience in four different areas: Specially Grown Enterprises, Helping Hands Enterprises, Woodcutters & More, and the Palm Café.

“My real goal with the school-based enterprises is to help the students learn how to be successful on a job site,” says Woodcutters & More teacher Gregory Schroer. “Are you on time? Are you all in task? Are you getting along with your coworkers? And then how are you dealing with your supervisors, especially when they’re giving you a correction and stuff?”

With the school’s Specially Grown Enterprises, students are growing vegetables and learning about nutrition. In the Palm Café, students prepare breakfast items, and sell them to teachers and staff. In the Helping Hands Enterprise, students are learning office skills such as filing, copying and collating documents. And with Woodcutters & More, students are working on projects and building unique items, such as wooden puzzles.

Thanks to this diverse training, students are earning paid jobs, including with the district’s food service provider, Chartwells. For students like Sharonda Murphy, the experience is priceless.

“I like that I can challenge myself to do different activities in each other enterprises that we do our school,” says Murphy. “I know I can be successful if I believe in myself.”

Watch the video below to see students in action.

Project SEARCH at Alden Road Exceptional Student Center

Developed and based at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Project SEARCH is a national program that focuses on helping students with significant disabilities transition to employment. Students participating in Alden Road’s one-year program do so in a total immersion setting at the University of North Florida.

“They are learning with their job skills, they are working with a coach, they’re working with a supervisor,” says Ayaenna McHugh, a Project SEARCH instructor with Alden Road. “They’re in the actual department, with other people that work there. And they are just learning so many skills and learning so many resources, time management, soft skills and hard skills.”

As part of the program, students are asked to report to UNF daily. They not only learn employability and competitive job skills, but they also participate in three internships throughout the year.

Students also attend regular “Employment Planning Meetings” and get continual feedback from managers, co-workers, and staff. Graduates have gone on to earn employment with companies ranging from Olive Garden to Lowe’s.

“I have definitely learned the importance of a job and how to react into it and how to be more responsible,” says Dillon Sweat, an Alden Road Student participating in the program. “I want to thank the teachers and students that helped me get to where I am.”

View the video below to get inside look at Alden Road students participating in Project SEARCH.

Employers who are interested in hiring students from either program can reach out to specific staff.

  • To inquire about hiring students from Palm Avenue Exceptional Student Center contact Job Developer Donna Okeafor at (904) 693-7516 extension 999955 or email [email protected]
  • To inqure about hiring students from Alden Road’s Project SEARCH Program can contact Instructor Ayaenna McHugh at (904) 565-8611 or at email [email protected]. You may also contact Project SEARCH Skills Trainer John Pitocchelli at (904) 444-7467 or email [email protected]

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