The Arcadia Institute

Making it possible for people with disabilities to be welcomed, supported and respected in their community

Creative Community Ways to Make It Work

The bog this week was written by Deborah Warfield, a Community Broker at The Arcadia Institute.

in•no•va•tion
noun
1.the action or process of innovating.
synonyms: change, alteration, revolution, upheaval, transformation, metamorphosis, breakthrough; new measures, new methods, modernization, novelty, newness; creativity, originality, ingenuity, inspiration, inventiveness; informal shake up

“No appliance (community) manufacturer can survive without an ongoing commitment to innovation.” Webster Dictionary

We all know that there is really nothing new under the sun. Just new ways of rearranging and utilizing what currently exists.

The Community Brokers of The Arcadia Institute are charged with becoming intentional about helping community members find new ways to rearrange and utilize what currently exists. We also help to integrate persons with disabilities specifically into the realm of employment.

Each individual community member represents a myriad of gifts to be most optimized when shared. Not only do we limit ourselves by not opening up to innovation, it cost us something.

We lose money. We lose stamina. We lose in areas of productivity. We get left behind. People, who rely upon us to assist them, lose hope.

This year, the 5th Building a Community of Belonging: A Forum of the Arcadia Institute and it’s partners invited community members to participate in “think circles” that explored a few successes in connecting organizations with people in ways that became a win-win for everyone.

Community members shared innovative ways to approach some identified community challenges in the area of employment matches.

Here are a few examples of innovations that made it possible for persons with disabilities to find value, worth and a sense of belonging.

Boys and Girls Club
A community member with a disability had put in several years of loyal and fruitful volunteering. That organization is so committed to embracing his skills that they are brainstorming about ways in which they can create a job and schedule that matches his particular gifts and talents while serving up a win-win for that organization.

Humphrey Products
An organic coffee table conversation about job searches yielded an opportunity for a person with a disability to become incorporated into a position. The only adjustment made by the organization was to be blessed to identify an individual who was willing to build a trusting, respectful relationship. That person made a commitment to orient them and be the go-to person for whatever he may have need of as he was learning the ropes. He is now become “part of the woodwork” with minimal supervisory needs.

Media Arts Academy
As a member of the production crew, a person with disabilities was contracted independently to expand his hands-on learning opportunity. Literacy challenges did not prevent him from gaining skills that make it possible for him to remain on the list for future media contracts. His interest in exploring Media Arts gives him a chance to test the waters and be exposed to a trade that could improve his chances of always being able to find personal jobs along his entry into the world of employment.

Project Search Employment Training/Bronson Hospital
Doors of staff, administrators, employees and department after department, during the 10-week rotations, swing wide open for a select group of young adults with disabilities to be able to apply their employment training practices on a daily basis. Service providers, instructors, parents and job coaches, meet monthly to celebrate what’s working and address the areas that may become challenges. Every year, an increasing percentage of students end up impressing enough supervisors and fellow employees to land part and full-time jobs within the organization. Commits follow to assist the remaining trainees in seeking employment elsewhere in the community as a result of this year long, employment training partnership.

Sherman Lake YMCA
Engaging campers and staff in stretching themselves summer after summer has permitted Sherman Lake YMCA to move from reviewing a checklist of adjustments to incorporating inclusion training as part of overall staff development. Safe and trusting atmospheres work for everyone. Campers experience opportunities to find ways to embrace differences associated with persons with disability. An individual was able to transition from camper with a disability to go on and become a paid staff person over time. Always room for growth but inclusion matters around their campfires.

Ryskes Restaurant
Persons with disabilities have a voice. One day this individual, after finishing his meal, simply asked if there were any jobs available. Within weeks, he found himself being trained to assist with setups and breakdowns. It wasn’t too long before he needed little to no coaching and instruction than any other employee facing the adjustments associated with the ebb and flow of restaurateurs. The owner had been exposed in his childhood to the blessing of what happens when inclusion works and was willing to take a risk on this young and motivated person who just happened to have a disability.

People’s Food Co-Op
Embracing the strengths of the person with a disability allowed this organization to tailor her duties in such a way that a new and improved policy emerged that became a win-win for all. Reducing overall losses at the checkout across the board and held every employee in that position more tightly accountable for best practices.

Inclusion improves our community and it’s members all around as we continue to remain open to Creative Community Ways to Make It Work.

Strengths

The blog this week was written by Wendy Hutchison, a Community Broker at The Arcadia Institute.

Merriam-Webster defines strength as: the quality that allows someone to deal with problems in a determined and effective way.

At the Arcadia Institute’s Building a Community of Belonging forum on March 26th, small groups spent time defining, identifying and realizing the strengths of individuals with disabilities that shared their story of success.

There were three types of strengths that came from the groups: inner strengths, outward strengths and overall strengths.

Many inner strengths about the character of the individual were identified: honesty, positive, independent, self-esteem, responsible, hard worker, confident, motivated, leader, committed, initiative.

Outward strengths or those that are drawn upon to move ourselves from where we have been to where we strive were realized as: Willingness to learn new things, take a chance, be courageous, take a risk, create redirection, be a good problem-solver.

Strengths that allow the individual to connect with others and are useful in building teams were identified as: having fun, relationships, community, getting along with people, knowing the impact of sharing their passion.

It was clear as these individuals shared their stories, that they were able to use their inner strengths and also build new strengths as their confidence grew along with their opportunities.

Everyone needs strengths to be successful in their work, home life and community. They are the qualities that allow us to maneuver through any roadblocks, issues, unexpected events or other hurdles that life serves us. The inner strengths, outward strengths and connection strengths that these individuals possess and the combined strengths from each of the three categories are what each of us draws upon to deal with problems in a determined and effective way.

Our Connections Make Us Stronger

The blog this week was written by Jennifer Goodwill, a Community Broker at The Arcadia Institute.

On March 20, 2014, the 5th annual Building a Community of Belonging forum took place in downtown Kalamazoo. Allison Hammond wrote last week about the stories that were shared regarding employing people with disabilities. After hearing from individuals about their experiences with employment, the people attending the forum spent time in small groups talking about what we had learned. Each group was asked to reflect on the value of connections in an individual’s life and the role connections may play in employment. A common theme in the stories is that connections help individuals find employment opportunities, and they also help businesses find quality employees to hire.

People often talk about the value of networking and using personal connections in the search for employment, and the stories we heard at the forum showed why these connections are so helpful. Many of the individuals talked about how they were able to use their connections to have deeper discussions with employers about matching the needs of the organization with the strengths of the individual.

When going through the traditional method of searching help wanted ads and filling out applications, the employer must depend on information in an application and their interview skills to make a decision about hiring someone. But when you use personal connections to bring an employer and potential employee together, many of the unknowns are removed, like are they dependable, responsible and teachable? Knowing an individual first hand, or having someone you respect recommend an individual, increases the chances that the right fit will be found for a job. Because there is an existing relationship, people are willing to take time to talk and explore available opportunities.

The stories from our participants included a long-term volunteer starting a conversation about how he may become an employee; an intern using the skills she has learned and positive recommendations she has earned to seek a paid position; a man asking a local business owner who is friends with his family if he may fill out an application and talk about matching his skills with needs of the business; and, an individual who found his job when an organization arranged for him to meet an employer needing to hire someone for a particular position.

And it goes both ways. Not only do connections help employers find quality employees, but many of the comments at the forum pointed out that connections can help individuals find out about potential places of employment. We need to keep our eyes and ears open as we move about our community, and look for available opportunities. If we hear about a business or organization needing to hire someone for a job, think about who you may introduce to them that would be an asset to the organization. And, if you know of someone looking for a job, think about who you know in the community that may be interested in hiring them, or, at the very least, may be able to provide the individual with advice and encouragement to set them on their desired path to employment.

Check back next week to learn more about the discussions at the forum.

Building a Community of Belonging: Could you hear the construction?

On Thursday, March 20, 2014, over 60 people gathered at the Ladies’ Library Association in Kalamazoo MI. These people represented many facets of our community that are committed to creating a community where everyone belongs – especially people with disabilities.

In the morning, seven stories about employing people with disabilities were shared by the people and their employers. The Stories were:

Taking a Chance
A young man with Down Syndrome had asked Rykse’s restaurant manager if he could apply for a job. He took a chance. The restaurant manager gave him an application and eventually hired him. The restaurant staff learned to support the young man – they took a chance.

From Camper to Counselor:
YMCA Sherman Lake Camp related the story of how a camper who was challenged at camp because of disabilities as a child eventually became a counselor. The story revealed innovative ways that the camp staff had included the camper as a child. Now, as a counselor he is wonderful as he interacts with all campers. The counselor was unable to be at the Forum because he is now in college.

From Intern to Employee:
Project Search at Bronson Hospital is a collaboration among Kalamazoo Regional Education Agency, Bronson Hospital and Kalamazoo Community Health and Substance Abuse Services. The eight interns rotate through various work experiences at the hospital and are held to high standards as interns. The goal of the project is for students to gain the skills, confidence and responsibilities of being good employees. All eight interns from the 2012-2013 year are now employed throughout the Kalamazoo community.

High Expectations:
Humphrey Products had a job that needed to be filled by someone who would be responsible, competent and reliable in the factory. The Arcadia Institute was working with a young man who fit that description. Now a year later, the young man continues to do such a good job that he has been recognized for keeping his equipment exceptionally clean based on the high standards of the equipment inspector.

From Apprentice to Employee:
One young man is very interested in media such as video and photography. He is currently learning how to handle high quality video equipment and operate a camera through the Media Arts Academy. On occasion he gets paid opportunities to practice what he has learned and to be part of a production team. His goal is to work in the video business.

Returning to Employment:
A young woman who works at the People’s Food Co-Op survived a stroke just over a year ago. Her co-workers at the Co-Op have supported her to come back to work. She is a valuable part of the team and they treat her as such. Coworkers have designed ways for her to navigate the various jobs she does at the Co-Op very creatively. Constant communication among her coworkers has been an integral part of supporting her successful return to work.

Volunteering to Employment:
Another young man has volunteered regularly at the Boys and Girls Club for nearly four years. Some health problems have been kept him from employment. Recently, he has been invited to start attending staff meetings. They are on a path to creating a job for this young man that is based on tasks they need done and his gifts.

Stayed tuned for the next few blogs where we take a deeper look at what we learned that day and the connections that were discovered!

Transition Services at the KRESA Young Adult Program

The blog this week was written by Deb Wild, Principal of the KRESA Young Adult Program.

When I first became the Principal of the Young Adult Program (YAP) four years ago, I used the analogy of a relay race to describe how YAP fit in the transition of a young adult to their adult world. In this scenario, the High School program passed the “baton” to YAP to develop skills in the areas of Career/Employment, Community Participation, Adult Living and Post Secondary Preparation. When the IEP team felt that the student was ready for their adult life or they reached the age of 26, YAP passed the “baton” to agencies that would support that person for perhaps the rest of their life. Now, thanks to Arcadia Institute, and Community Brokering, we look at the transition to adult life very differently.

Community Brokering begins by looking at a map which includes the student’s dreams, gifts, goals and action steps necessary to live the adult life they desire. Identifying community circle allies and connecting the student to the community are also an important part of the process. What happens next is very exciting because the student begins to live part of their “adult life” one step at a time. Let’s say the student really wants to live in their own apartment. While YAP focuses on providing instruction to develop Adult Living Skills, someone connected with Community Brokering is working with the community and looking for the ideal fit for the student. Now that the student has their apartment, Arcadia may begin to explore options for community participation or work/volunteering. The student now begins to live their adult life bit by bit. During this time, the students has one foot in YAP and is receiving services and instruction necessary to be as independent as possible and one foot in their adult life and is supported by both. Gradually, their time in the Young Adult Program is adjusted to allow them to focus on living their adult life and eventually the student is ready to exit the Young Adult Program with lifelong community supports in place. This works!