Multiple Options for Transition from School to Work: Community Enterprises, Holyoke, MA

##Background

Community Enterprises’ Holyoke, MA office partners with about 10 Holyoke-area school systems in providing transition services to high school students with developmental disabilities. Community Enterprises has done outreach to area special education directors to promote its services, while some connections with schools have developed through word of mouth. For example, for this publication we interviewed the superintendent of the West Springfield Public Schools, which started working with Community Enterprises after its special education director heard about Community Enterprises from another director in the same special education collaborative.

##Implementation

Community Enterprises’ transition programs help local students access employment opportunities while still in high school:

Community Enterprises’ transition services bridge the gap between school and adult services by working closely with families throughout the transition process, with a particular focus on the goal of transitioning to community employment. Community Enterprises staff make a particular effort to participate in students’ IEP meetings and to work with schools and families, especially when families are having a difficult time with the transition process. Staff act as a window to adult services, providing information and helping families explore service options. In addition to working closely with families and schools, Community Enterprises works with a number of other partners. Community Enterprises:

##Impact

Community Enterprises’ transition programs help students access more employment opportunities while still in high school. For example, prior to working with Community Enterprises, West Springfield High School did not have any students employed while they were still in school; students remained in the high school setting until age 22. Now, every student has at least some paid employment experience before leaving high school. In addition, the partnership has enabled students (particularly students ages 18-21) to get out of the school building and participate in other settings in the community. As the West Springfield superintendent stated, “The change of setting is key.”

In addition, the programs have led to better employment outcomes after school. For example, in 2010, 14 students in the ASSET and Transition programs found jobs with support from Community Enterprises. In addition, students have gained independence, and their families have received guidance in navigating the transition process.

##Suggestions for Replication

For schools:

##For service providers:

For More Information

Mary Curtin,
Director,
Holyoke Employment and Training Program Community Enterprises
mcurtin@communityenterprises.com
413-536-4200

Russell Johnston,
Superintendent of Schools West Springfield Public Schools
rjohnston@wsps.org
413-263-3300

Jennifer Sullivan Sulewski,
Research Associate Institute for Community Inclusion,
University of Massachusetts Boston
jennifer.sulewski@umb.edu
617-287-4356