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Partnering with Schools to Serve Transition-Age Youth: Berkshire County Arc, Pittsfield, MA

Background

Berkshire County Arc first started providing contracted school-to-career services in 1996 with one Lenox High School student. The high school contacted Berkshire County Arc because the student’s parents wanted more vocational services for their daughter. This first case was a success—the student got a job right out of high school—and Berkshire County Arc has provided similar services to Lenox High School students ever since. They also started contacting other special education directors in the area to initiate conversations on the need for school-to-career services. Berkshire County Arc now contracts with all ten school systems in the Berkshires to provide school-to-career services.

Implementation

Berkshire County Arc is contracted by schools to provide vocational evaluations, internships, career planning, support for full- and part-time jobs, and parental education. The agency works with the special education directors and school personnel from each district to identify students with whom they will work.

Services are funded through contracts directly with school systems and are tailored to each school’s needs and existing vocational services. For example, in some schools the Berkshire County Arc does the vocational evaluation and the school uses the evaluation findings to guide subsequent services and supports. For others, Berkshire County Arc provides a more complete package. In Lenox, for example, the school provides prevocational instruction and some jobs within the school. Berkshire County Arc gets involved around age 16-18, providing a vocational evaluation that involves exposure to a variety of work settings in the community. This evaluation is the starting point for the student’s vocational services, then internships, part-time jobs, and career planning are provided to the individual with Berkshire County Arc providing the job placement and job coaching supports. Families are involved throughout the process. Berkshire County Arc connects families with other resources, such as the family support center, Independent Living Center, transportation systems, and Social Security Administration. The Department of Developmental Services and Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission are also engaged in the planning process to ensure a good transition to adult services.

A few challenges for these partnerships have been:

Impact

Suggestions for Replication

Recommendations for providers:

Recommendations for schools:

For More Information

Rick Hawes, Director\ Berkshire County Arc\ rhawes@bcarc.org\ 413-443-1038

Cindy Dinan,\ Director of Student Services\ Lenox Public Schools\ shanson@lenoxps.org\ 413-637-5571

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