In This Issue:
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. New Jersey has more than 170,000 people with disabilities, according to the state Division of Disability Services. Many people with intellectual and physical challenges become discouraged by the lack of job opportunities available to them—in fact, more than 62% of people with disabilities are unemployed, according to U.S. Census data. Some companies in New Jersey aggressively hire workers with disabilities, including A&P Stores, ACME, AMC Theatres, Chubb & Son, Inc. and Somerset Medical Center. But as with all jobs, skills are a valuable part of surviving and thriving in the job market.
A new organization, founded in 2009, works closely with the staff and students of high schools throughout Southern New Jersey to provide job opportunities for students with developmental disabilities. Pride Ventures Inc. in Medford trains and places current and recently graduated high school students in real work place environments where they can earn salaries and pay taxes. The organization trains students in pre-job skills, like learning how to interview for a job and complete job applications; on-the-job skills, like working with colleagues and following directions; work place ready skills, including time management and demonstrating responsibility; and community skills that involve social awareness and self advocacy.
According to a recent article in the Courier-Post, Kelsey Wilson, a graduate of Shawnee High School in Medford who has Down syndrome, works at Pride Paws, a local pet supply business operated through Pride Ventures that provides training and employment for young adults with challenges. Kelsey is part of a 200-hour training course that is teaching her how to clock in, count change and welcome customers to the store. After training, she will earn at least $7.25 an hour, New Jersey’s minimum wage. Find out more about Pride Ventures by accessing the Web site, listed in the Resource Corner section of this newsletter.
In honor of Hispanic Heritage month, which ran through Oct. 15, Sen. Robert Menendez spoke to students at the Dwight-Englewood School, a private school in Englewood, about the importance of embracing cultures. “We need to understand the difference among us and that these differences are a cause of celebration,” he said.
Career Fuel caught up with one young Hispanic woman in New Jersey who was making a difference this October—on the fashion runway. Stephanny Alvarez, 20 and a 2007 graduate of Dickinson High School in Jersey City, was a special events manager intern for Donnella Tilery, the founder of the first-annual New Jersey Fashion Week on October 11 and 12. “I worked with the designers and made sure they had everything they needed,” says Stephanny, a fashion marketing student at the Art Institute of Philadelphia. “There were 20 models, four per designer. Any questions they needed answered backstage, they asked me. Everyone knew their duties and I was there to make sure they did them right.” Stephanny was also in charge of reviewing intern résumés and recruiting volunteers for the show.
Stephanny has set a five-year goal for her fashion career. “My dream career is to own my own store that hosts up-and-coming designers, sells men’s and women’s clothing and possibly children’s clothing later,” says Stephanny. “As soon as I graduate, I plan to work like crazy and save. By the time I’m 25, I want to open my store in the Dominican Republic, where my family is from.” In the words of Project Runway’s Tim Gunn, Stephanny is already making it work.
Read an expanded version of this article by visiting http://www.njnextstop.org, clicking on the Real People column’s Show All feature and selecting “Stephanny Alvarez.”
A celebration of everything October would not be complete without recognizing Christopher Columbus, who discovered America in 1492. You can bring that same spirit of discovery to your own career exploration. Here are some tips for navigating your career-finder journey:
• Assess what you love and what you hate. Where are your greatest strengths?
• Find an internship or job shadowing opportunity.
• Research and ask questions: the web, your school counselor and your parents are terrific resources.
• Don’t be afraid to take risks—step outside your comfort zone and into new experiences.
• Visit www.njnextstop.org for valuable career and New Jersey job market advice.
• Don’t be afraid to fail; failure teaches you lots about life and helps you grow.
• Have fun! Exploration should be an adventure, not a chore.
Leaving October can be downright frightening—ask any Halloween fan. The same holds true for leaving high school. Don’t get spooked! Avoid these four wrong moves and you may just tackle that rocky post-high school terrain successfully:
1. The Last-minute Scramble. Don’t wait until the night before graduation to start thinking about what tomorrow brings. Invest some time into a little post-grad planning and you will rest easy once your tassel has been turned.
2. It’s What They Want. No! It’s what you want. Mom and Dad may want you to join the family business or go straight to college, but if it’s not what you want, then you will ultimately be unhappy. Consider all your options—from learning a trade to joining a corporate training program at a company like Wegmans or McDonald’s. Figure out what is the right decision for you.
3. Money Talks. Well, yes, it’s important to consider your financial well-being. But it’s not the only determinant in how you shape your career. We all want to be successful—just make sure you understand what success means to you. Some rich people are miserable because they get no satisfaction from their jobs.
4. Must Keep Going. Not necessarily. If you need some time to figure it all out, why not consider a gap year between high school and your next move? Take that time to research, explore and experience and maybe even grow up a little. You’ll be much more prepared to make informed decisions about your future.
Read an expanded version of this article by visiting http://www.njnextstop.org, clicking on the Advice 101 column’s Show All feature and selecting “Four Scary Missteps on the Path to Your Future.”