DARKE COUNTY — The Darke County Board of Developmental Disabilities (Darke DD) is hosting their fourth annual Summer Youth Program. Previously funded through Vocational Rehabilitation Services, this year’s program, titled ”Switching Gears,” is being staffed and funded by Darke DD and is for youth ages 14 and 15 who are currently being served by the agency.
Ten students from various schools in Darke County are attending this five-week program that runs Tuesday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Cheryl Pressly, Darke DD Community First training coordinator, developed this program which focuses on hands-on, fun activities for children to learn about important work and life skills.
The program offers a combination of classroom learning as well as community connections with tours of local businesses and guest speakers. They will also visit the home of a young man with disabilities who is working at Arby’s and living in his own apartment. These experiences can help them form ideas and set goals of where they might want to live and work after they graduate from high school.
Darke DD is partnering with Edison State Community College to provide a site for the educational portion of the program. Chad Beanblossom, executive director of the Darke County Campus welcomed the students on their first day. He presented them with an Edison String Bag which contained important items for the budding young students. These included a flash drive, highlighter, pen, and a Frisbee, but maybe best of all, they each received an official Edison College student ID complete with their picture.
He said, “It is an honor to partner with Darke DD; it’s great to see new faces on campus this summer. I look forward to the next several weeks as we host the Switching Gears students and staff. Edison – Darke County is committed to serving the community, and we welcome any opportunity to partner with local community agencies to provide a quality learning environment that meets the needs of all residents of our community. We look forward to future opportunities to partner with the Darke DD.”
Over the next five weeks, the children will learn about and improve their skills in communication, teamwork, social skills, goal setting, time management, budgeting. They will also focus on career goals by doing various job search activities and creating a Career Poster. The combination of classroom learning and real world experiences really helps the students understand the connection between school and work.
Their first week was packed full of fun events. They toured Rural King and learned about all the different jobs within a retail setting. Hailey Brewer, assistant manager, provided a fun and informative tour. She spoke of the importance of customer service, saying it is their number-one priority. In the classroom, students are learning of the importance of attitude, enthusiasm, responsibility and communication, all key aspects to good customer service. They also learned that many of the jobs require good computer skills; this is something they can focus on while in school to help better prepare them for work.
Students finished out the week by listening to guest speakers. Marie Weaver, HR from Versailles Winery, gave a presentation focusing on how to prepare for an interview. They were able to hear first-hand what an employer will be looking for which will help them better prepare for their own interview. Sam Ploch, who receives services from Darke DD, spoke about his experiences volunteering at Shawnee Prairie and Garst Museum and how, with the help of a good support team, has created a life that is rewarding. His volunteering allows him to use his gifts and talents, some of which he attributes to having Asperger’s – specifically his strong interest areas, attention to detail and outstanding memory.
“He also spoke about advocacy, as he is quite active in several groups that promote the importance of identifying what is important to someone, and how to advocate for what you want. Sam hoped to empower and inspire the kids with his message,” a spokesperson said.
Darke DD will be doing a five-part series to highlight the various activities of the program. For more information on services provided through Darke DD, contact Rodney Willis, Community First director at (937) 548-6025 or firstname.lastname@example.org