Empowering people to achieve their goals and thrive in their communities is The Arc of Monroe’s primary mission. It’s always incredibly rewarding for staff to watch people they support work hard and see their dreams come to fruition. Cedric Burton is one of those people.
Cedric knew that he wanted a job someday. As he explored job readiness services, he started attending Community Connections, a program at The Arc of Monroe that allowed him to volunteer with his peers, as well as receive classroom instruction centered on gaining various job skills.
“We do a mixture of volunteering and core room. Cedric, along with a lot of his peers, excelled in the community,” Nick Wagar, Individual Support Employment Specialist, said. “He was always good at working as a team. He was able to have that balance of socializing and working because when you go into a job, you have to be able to balance that. He excelled in that and got his work done.”
The group at Community Connections volunteers at organizations across Monroe County, so Cedric was able to discover what he was good at, what he enjoyed most, and where he liked to work. Some of his favorite places that he volunteered at included Meals on Wheels, Goodwill, the Moose Lodge, park clean ups, the Public Market, and Petco.
Once staff started to see that Cedric was thriving and developing the job skills he needed to start working in the community, they suggested he apply to an internship at Adult Project SEARCH. Cedric knew that cleaning was one of his strengths from the volunteer work he did, so he decided that a cleaning internship at the Del Monte Hotel Group would be a great next step in his job readiness journey.
“He joined the program after a Project SEARCH staff was recruiting for Employment Training Program (ETP) candidates,” Charis Happ, Adult Project SEARCH Manager, said. “Cedric was social and outgoing and seemed like he would be a good fit. We asked for input from the Community Connections staff and his family supports, took him for a work trial, and saw that he got along really well with the other interns.”
Since that work trial, Cedric has been settling into his new role, cleaning common areas such as the fitness center, lobby, and pool. As with any job, Cedric experienced a bit of a learning curve and had a few days that challenged him.
“He calls us about once a week and lets us know how he’s doing,” Nick said. “I think that the first week or two was a shock because he actually had to work six hour shifts, not like our little hour or two of volunteering.”
But that’s the beauty of transitioning between services at The Arc of Monroe. Cedric knows that his friends and support staff at Community Connections are still there to help encourage him, as well as his new support system at Project SEARCH.
“It’s hard to go straight from home, playing video games and hanging out with friends to working,” Charis said. “Community Connections is a good stepping stone because they are more used to being out all day and building up social stamina.”
To help with this transition, each Project SEARCH intern starts their day at the “Hub” – a one-hour class in the morning where they learn about social skills, resume writing, interviews, eating well, banking, gaining independence, using RTS for independent transportation, job skills, and being reliable. From there, Employment Specialists accompany the interns to their assigned job for the day where they can help coach and assist as needed.
“I like working at the hotel,” Cedric said. “When I trialed here, I had to work on getting the little scratches off the door. So I had a Mr. Clean eraser, wet it, and got the marks off because the door was a little bit black. I didn’t want to disturb people because that’s where people sleep, so I scrubbed it quietly.”
It’s easy to see the pride that Cedric takes in his work as he shares about his day. He has a sense of accomplishment and purpose knowing that he can go to work every day and make a difference. It’s comforting to him knowing that he can come to work at the hotel every day and feel accepted as someone with a disability. It’s a big reason why he says he attends Arc Alliance meetings as a self-advocate. He wants to make sure that other businesses know how important inclusion is.
“The Del Monte group is great to work with for this program,” Charis said. “They are always flexible and create internship positions as needed. The thing I appreciate the most is that they hold our interns to the same expectations as their other employees. They don’t treat them any differently.”
Like Cedric, other people will be soon be transitioning to Project SEARCH this fall to begin internships at hotels across Rochester. To learn more about the program and how to apply, visit www.ArcMonroe.org/Adult-Project-Search. To learn more about Community Connections, visit www.ArcMonroe.org/Day-Services-Community-Connections.
We hope this blog is helpful to you! Our team at The Arc of Monroe is a wealth of information. Our staff is made up of experienced professionals who primarily support people with disabilities. If you’re interested in working with us at The Arc of Monroe, visit our careers page. If you’d like to give and help make valuable resources like Community Connections and Project SEARCH possible for people in your community, you can give online.