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Local businesses employ important workers

By Staff | Oct 27, 2019

Nora Leyva recently started a job at Juba’s SuperValu where she works to help fill in shifts and provide staff support through vocational rehab services. Leyva is a 2018 graduate of Blue Earth Area High School.

The month of October is known for many things. One of those things is Disability Employment Awareness Month, and the Faribault County community has a multitude of organizations and committees that work hard at making sure every student, both in and out of high school, no matter the level of skill, has an equal chance at work experiences and opportunities.

Agencies in the area such as STEP and MRCI, have teamed up with the Faribault and Martin Counties Community Transition Interagency Committee, or CTIC, to provide opportunities for students ages 14 to 22 with disabilities. CTIC works on college placement, career exploration, work skills classes, job shadowing and more to ensure students have an opportunity to be an active, working member in their community.

At Blue Earth Area High School, special education case manager Mathias Sturtz works one on one with students to create positive experiences that gear them up for the adult working world.

A few of the highlights in the School District Sturtz refers to which help assist students’ special educational needs and future employment include:

The Practical Assessment Exploration System, or PAES lab a work-based learning program that is a part of Southern Plains Educational Cooperative which helps assess students’ abilities, interests, and skills,

Work skills classes at Blue Earth Area like the Family and Consumer Science, or FACS, class, which help bridge the gap of skills students need to learn when entering the adult world,

Work experience and job shadowing opportunities from area businesses that can turn into actual jobs.

“It’s these kinds of programs that show it’s not just us trying to help our students, but these students are filling important gaps in our local economy that keep our small towns going,” says Sturtz. “These students can fill in for short shifts, learn lots of different work and life skills, and help our communities be more inclusive to all skill sets. They are huge assets to our local businesses, and these students stay in our community.”

Sometimes, it is hard to find an opportunity at all in the working world, and programs like CTIC help show students with disabilities where those viable opportunities are, and help pair them up with jobs and opportunities they can enjoy.

“Transition to the workplace is a key step for the students who are coming out of high school and just getting into the work force,”?says Sturtz. “At BEA, we work hard to provide inclusion and support for not just our students, but their parents as well. A transition can be tough for anyone and that’s why organizations like CTIC are there, to help these students during and after they graduate.”

Another part of the area’s opportunities for abilities of all kinds includes vocational rehab services, or VRS a state-funded group that supports the transition from school to work for those with disabilities. Students work with a case manager and local businesses, including STEP?and MRCI, to get help and support in finding job opportunities through job coaching or job shadowing and work assessments. It is another local resource to be used for students with disabilities.

Some of the strong proponents of the VRS program include businesses like Juba’s, Lampert’s, Everidge, Twisted Vine Floral, the Blue Earth Public Library, Pizza Hut and many others. Each one of these businesses works hand-in-hand with BEA to provide ample opportunity for students with disabilities. Some students who gain work experiences from this program have also moved into paid positions at these establishments.

“We have a lot of great individuals with disabilities within our communities working with many great businesses,” says Sturtz. “My peers and I get the opportunity to work with many of these organizations and businesses to do our best to connect students with disabilities with viable options for employment in their communities. These individuals with disabilities are an incredible asset to our communities.”

From employers and educators to students and employees, every role is an important one when it comes to the workforce. Each month, no matter what special title it may hold, people of all abilities put their best foot forward in their community and in Faribault County, a student of any ability has a profound support system around them to succeed.