Career camp for transitioning students

Photo submitted to Times Observer Students in the Warren County School District who receive Pre-Employment Transition Services (PETS) were given an opportunity to spend eight days this month exploring various career interests and the local opportunities within those fields of interest through Bollinger Enterprises. From left are Dante Cook, Justin Lake, Karen Sobkowski, Tawnia Booth, and Connor Campbell.

Local students are getting an opportunity to ESCape this summer.

Students with disabilities in the Warren County School District who receive Pre-Employment Transition Services were given an opportunity to spend eight days this month exploring various careers through Bollinger Enterprises.

The program, called ESCape Camp — with the ESC standing for “Employment Summer Camp” — is an opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at local employers as students strive toward transitioning from school to work. It’s also a chance to develop ideas about what sort of career students might like to pursue, to research that field, and to observe and talk to people employed in their fields of interest.

“We were approached by the Office of Vocational Rehab (OVR) to consider starting a camp,” Bollinger Executive Director Dr. William Clark said.

Out of the seven counties that OVR covers in this region, Clark said, “we were the only one that really stepped out and worked with the district to get the camp going.”

The goal in this inaugural year is to get the program off the ground, and to see it grow in attendance and popularity as time goes on, he said.

According to Transition Services Coordinator Robbin VanOrd, the camp has been going well so far. Camp started on June 25 and will be going until July 26, with two field observations per week — one Mondays and one Thursdays.

So far, she said students have visited Warren General Hospital, Falconer Printing, and Hampton Inn and Suites. On Thursday, they’ll be heading to the Rouse Estates, followed by Whirley, Betts, Northwest Bank, and Walmart in the next two weeks.

The opportunity was open to students in the WCSD who are receiving transition programming who will be juniors or seniors this fall. Six students signed up this year. The goal is to increase participation in the coming years and possibly open the camp up to incoming freshman and sophomores; that will depend on engagement, but so far the response from both students and businesses has been overwhelmingly positive.

Each day of camp students arrive at Beaty Warren Middle School at 9 a.m., and spend the first half-hour hearing about that day’s featured business. Students are given a run down of the careers that will be observed and shadowed, and they get to decide which of those careers they want to focus their research on. Students then research their chosen career and create a presentational poster to share what they’ve learned with the rest of their cohorts. At noon, students and VanOrd travel to the day’s business and begin their observations and job shadows.

Upon returning to Beaty, students reflect on what they’ve seen and learned, and discuss their insights and interest in the career they chose.

“The goal is just to get students actively thinking about what they want to do as they plan to transition out of school and into adulthood.” she adds, “and to learn as much as they can about their desired careers. The more information students have about their fields of interest, the better when the time comes to choose.”