Borough to Form Work Partnership With Special Needs Students
Students in the high school's Bridges II program will work once a week at the recycling center to gain functional life skills
The high school's Bridges II students, by now well-accustomed to YouTube superstardom following the release last week of their second hit music video in six months, aren't letting the glamor and glitz get in the way of putting in an honest day's work.
This fall, the students will ditch the stylists and makeup artists, roll up their sleeves and get dirty once a week working at the borough's recycling center.
"We felt that it would be a change of pace," said Bridges II teacher Doreen Yates, who also has arranged for the cohort of cognitively impaired 16-to-21-year-olds to work weekly at Giovanni's Deli and Goodwill. "We do teach about the environment and recycling and why it’s so important and how it helps our future, so this was just the obvious next step for us."
Unlike the Bridges I program, which is run out of Memorial Middle School and focuses primarily on academics, Bridges II students learn mostly functional job and socialization skills.
When they're not out working in the community, the students run a restaurant out of their high school classroom, operate an in-school laundry service for teachers and students, bake cookies and wrap gifts for the holidays, and package maps for the parks commission, Yates said.
This fall, as part of the soon-to-be established work partnership with the borough, the Bridges students will be bused to the recycling center where they'll receive job tasks and perform work for two hours, once a week. Yates will come along for the ride with a few paraprofessionals.
"I oversee everything," she said, "but my job is to make [the students] as independent as possible. So once they learn the routine they’ll go in and they’ll know exactly what to do."
To prepare students for the potentially unfamiliar sights and sounds that they'll encounter at the recycling center, Public Works superintendent Ron Conte offered to bring a front-end loader and garbage truck to the school for a hands-on "show and tell" of sorts before they begin their jobs.
"There are strange noises to it and I just don’t want to get a child upset because there’s a whining noise from hydraulics or when the packer blade goes in or the sound of the engine," Conte said. "Just to make them familiar with it before they get to it. That'd be perfect."
Borough council unanimously supported the initiative, which is expected to kick off in late September or early October, pending a review of the program's insurance.
Councilman Kurt Peluso, a former teacher of children with autism, applauded Yates' efforts and the Bridges II program's innovative initiatives.
"I just want to thank you for thinking outside the box," said Peluso, noting that his former employer had never considered tapping into the town's public works department to train special needs students. "You’re keeping Fair Lawn ahead of the curve."