Javion is a confident, friendly young man. Currently a junior at Battle High School, Javion is focused on building vocational skills for productive life as an adult. After school a few nights per week, Javion is a customer courtesy representative for Hy-Vee where he works “the front” section of the store, greeting and assisting customers, sometimes answering the phone, returning empty shopping baskets and carts to stow areas, straightening shelves, bagging groceries – anything to support store operations and the customers’ experience. “I like working here. Everyone has a positive attitude. It’s hard to have a bad day,” he says.
With support from Community Skills Specialist Christi Brown, Javion landed the part-time opportunity in hopes of building his resume and skill sets for a future career. “Javion and I worked together on the janitorial and landscape crews at Boone County Family Resources,” says Christi. “During that time Javion showed he would be a valued employee because he is a hard worker with a positive attitude and a great personality. He is fun to be around and yet still gets the job done!”
During his participation on the Life & Work Connections landscape and janitorial crews, not only did Javion pick up practical skills for landscaping, gardening and cleaning, but he also began developing soft skills such as punctuality, communication, courtesy, teamwork and following directions. Participants on the work crews have goals of community employment as the ultimate outcome of their training and job preparation. These skills, plus Javion’s own persistence and confidence also helped him make an impression on the human resources staff at Hy-Vee. “He knows he is a good worker and it shows,” says Christi.
An added bonus to Javion’s paid position at Hy-Vee is that he will also receive credit toward high school graduation for the job he is doing. Through the Cooperative Work-Experience Program (COOP), a partnership with the Department of Elementary, Secondary Education (DESE) and Vocational Rehabilitation and Columbia Public Schools Special Education, Javion’s work experience will get him one step closer to graduation. The Department offers the program recognizing the value of early vocational experiences to enhance future career outcomes. Studies have shown that students with special needs who have work experiences prior to graduation are much more likely to seek and retain competitive employment after graduation.
Per the DESE website: “Successful transition planning for students with disabilities involves looking ahead, into the student’s future, preparing not just for graduation, but also for life after graduation. One of the most important aspects of a student’s future involves employment.”
“I plan to have a good future,” Javion says. “I’m thinking of going to college, too.”