A STRIVE Profile: Cameron, Courtney, Justin, and Shane

A STRIVE Profile: Cameron, Courtney, Justin, and Shane

It’s 9:30 and break is over. Justin folds up his newspaper. Cameron and Shane return their magazines to the cart. On her way back to the work room, Courtney, an animated young woman with a wavy brown ponytail, talks about her experience in STRIVE… Supported Training and Rehabilitative Instruction in Vocational Education… a community-based, vocational training program for young people (ages 18-21) who have graduated from a Gwinnett school with an Individualized Educational Program (IEP) diploma.

Courtney and Justin work on a project in the Human Resources work room at the Instructional Support Center.
Twice a week, the four STRIVE students arrive at the school system’s Instructional Support Center at 6:45 a.m., ready to start their work day. Tuesdays are spent in Media Services, working in the system’s professional library.

Thursdays bring office work in the Human Resources division… Courtney’s favorite part of the work week. Just a few months into her first year in STRIVE, Courtney has a pretty good idea of what she likes and doesn’t like about her jobs so far.

Sorting mismatched shoes and unloading boxes just may not be her cup of tea, while the office work in HR suits her fine. Until the age of 22, she will have an opportunity to experience two different work settings each year. Courtney says she would like to try a grocery store or maybe a sandwich shop or pizza place next.

Whatever paying job she pursues after leaving the program, Courtney says she really wants to work. “It’s something to do… not sit on the couch and be a…” She hesitates and looks to STRIVE Teacher Peggy Todd for the phrase she’s looking for. “A couch potato,” says Ms. Todd. “So you’re not sitting and being a couch potatohead,” says Courtney.

“They know what they like and don’t like and can be very opinionated,” says Ms. Todd of her students. “That’s good though.” She notes that STRIVE helps young people in the program to reach their potential as citizens in the community, including making decisions and having opinions, all part of becoming more independent.

The young men she works with each Thursday—Shane, Justin, and Cameron— are in their second year with STRIVE. They’ve each held a number of positions… making cardboard boxes for a contact lens company, working in a coffee shop, and doing office work.

Cameron prepares packets for the system's Certified Teacher Employment Fair.

Shane’s other job with Sam’s Club keeps him busy and he likes that, but he’s really hoping for a spot at Pizza Hut. “I want to make dough and spread sauce on it,” he says. Justin, too, would like to do restaurant work in the future.

Shane sorts incoming mail for the Benefits staff.
Shy in the break room, they all warm up once they’re back working. Shane’s job will be sorting a box of mail. As he tries to match name to cubbyhole, Ms. Todd asks leading questions to help him find his way. He consults a color-coded list keyed to bright dots for each row. Shane points out a box full to overflowing with mail for the Benefits staff. (It’s Open Enrollment time for insurance.) “You have got to be kidding me,” he says with a small shudder.

At one point, Justin offers help and the two young men work together to finish up the stack. Courtney and Ms. Todd enthusiastically praise Cameron’s efficiency as he sorts papers into packets for the upcoming teacher job fair.

Throughout the morning, HR staffers come into the workroom to make copies or pick up mail. Their interactions with the students are warm and friendly. The students beam as a project supervisor from HR doles out hugs and high fives, asking about their plans for the upcoming weekend.