The goal of the vocational program at Saint Catherine Academy is to prepare students with disabilities for maximum personal independence and integration into a workplace through an individualized program. Students who are 16 begin to add job skill development to their program. Vocational classes led by a full time vocational coordinator, special education teachers and job coaches introduce workplace vocabulary, different job opportunities and hands on work experience within the school environment. On-site work experience includes office work, sorting and packaging, assembly line activities and maintenance. Students have the opportunity to visit a variety of job sites to gain an understanding of different types of work and to develop student interests.
Job placements follow the school-based program. Students are placed at a variety of job sites to expose them to different workplaces and to allow for multiple skill development. Students travel with job coaches who remain on site to assist in acclimation as well as reinforcement of skill development. An emphasis is placed on the development of appropriate workplace communication and self advocacy skills for use in both the workplace and the community. Job sites have included Bigelow Tea Fulfillment Center, Shehan Center, Gilberties Herb Farm, Fairfield University Food Service, and area elementary schools as child care and pre-school helpers. Placements also currently include area restaurants, department stores and Sacred Heart University.
During this time, school based instruction includes:
- Math with a focus on managing money using a school-based banking program, budgeting, and consumer skills
- Language Arts with a focus on workplace and community vocabulary and skills such as resume writing and employment applications
- Life Skills with a focus on independent living such as meal preparation and shopping.
Students whose abilities are more suited for a community-based program focus on
- Developing appropriate social skills for community activities
- Learning safe behavior in the community
- Completing volunteer work and school-based projects
- Continued development of language skills for volunteer tasks and participating as independently as possible in community and living situations.
All students who are 18-21 are either involved in a community based experience program or a vocational program with an emphasis on transition to adulthood. Students are guided to discover their own strengths, to gain confidence from their successes and to learn to value that which makes them different. The purpose of our vocational program is to prepare our students for life after school – to be productive, independent and participating adults to the extent that each individual’s abilities will allow.