A little known workforce is hoping to attract new business connections, and jobs.
Daniel Schmidt was dressed as though he had a job interview at the Government Services Building on Wednesday, Oct. 19. It was Disability Mentoring Day, part of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and Daniel had the right idea – there were potential employers present.
The ever enthusiastic Dr. Kimberli Halliday admitted she wasn’t sure if the TRAILS Transition training program event, scheduled before Hurricane Matthew rearranged lives and landscape, would be well attended, and it didn’t matter.
“I told my team, seven or 70, we will be great,” Halliday said. “We have more people here than I anticipated. This is very important for us, but when you are a principal or director, there are other things you have to do to get the schools back up.”
By the end, an estimated 20 guests attended, including Flagler School Superintendent Jacob Oliva, school board members, and school principals.
Guests sat down with the students, and learned. They learned about projects, like a yard cleanup in Flagler Beach, park cleanups, and helping out at the Grace Community Food Pantry.
“I work at the park,” student Connor Mondello said. “I was cleaning out branches. There are a lot of heavy branches from that hurricane that caused it. I liked getting it cleaned out.”
Connor’s job coach, Marty Thacker, has taken his team to local parks every day since the storm, to pick up and stack the branches that have been cut up by Flagler County staff. Twice the team has helped Flagler Beach families, “adopted” by the team, clean up after the storm.
Tara Umpenhour, also a job coach, sits next to Timothy Elliff. Timothy has been part of the park clean up team and also works at the food pantry, unloading trucks and stocking shelves.
“We put on a social service outreach event, Access Flagler, with 30 agencies every other month,” said Janet Nickels, program manager for Flagler County Human Services. “Many of the youth here today help us get ready for the event, they help us bag food for about 300 households.”
Eggs won’t be broken and bread won’t be mushed if Cross Bauder is packing your groceries at the Belle Terre Crossings Publix. Cross explained how he always packed the eggs and bread in separate bags. He also helps out in the deli department, but his favorite place is the bakery, where he puts out the cookies and turnovers. Cross also has a plan for his future.
“When I get older, I want to study for my GED so I can go into the Navy,” he said.
Halliday related the story about how the TRAILS Transition program came to be.
“Several years ago Dr. (Tracy) Umpenhour (previous director of Exceptional School Education), called me into the office and said, “If you could have any transition program at all for kids with disabilities, what would it look like?”
Halliday laughed when she recalled how she talked for 25 minutes until Umpenhour finally said, “OK, stop talking.”
“It takes a special person, and special staff,” Nickels said. “Dr. Halliday has the heart and energy, and also, she has the persistence to advocate. This is good for parents and caregivers, to know that these young men and women are going to be able to get jobs, and support themselves, and they aren’t going to have to worry.”
There is no doubt in Halliday’s mind as to what the program needs.
“We need places to go and work. We need businesses to say, “You know, I’ll go ahead and take one of those young people.”