Discovering Your Potential: A Transition Program at Gulfstream Goodwill
Interview with Jennifer Lewenec, Employment Consultant at Gulfstream Goodwill
Stephanie Symonds, with the support group Special Needs Family Connection, had the delight of interviewing Jennifer Lewenec, Employment Consultant for the Discover Your Potential program at Gulfstream Goodwill.
Discover Your Potential is a three-year pilot program with the purpose to increase employment outcomes for individuals with autism and other unique abilities. The program allows participants to see beyond their disability, to realize their full potential so they do not become limited by their diagnosis.
Discover Your Potential is an innovative program that connects individuals to Vocational Rehabilitation services. The expected outcome is to increase employment for individuals with unique abilities by assisting them with the necessary tools for success. This is accomplished by helping participants discover their inner purpose and passions, implementing trainings, and placing needed employment supports.
To join this program there is an interview process. Candidates must be at least eighteen years old. Goodwill does a screening to determine the goals of the potential client. Once they obtain necessary information they will see how they can best connect employment opportunities to participant hobbies, passions, interests and goals. Candidates may also share dislikes and needs for accommodations.
Once accepted into the program, participants go through the training process. They learn about building a resume, interviewing skills, how to dress for work, building a successful life with a career driven focus, self-advocacy, life skills, social skills, etc.
The program currently has 27 participants, and they accept four new individuals every quarter. Goodwill performs home visits, on-the-job training, and works with community businesses to connect individuals to desired jobs. Coaches are available to help with job issues that may arise. The program helps build skills for successful employment and motivation to achieve goals.
In addition to employment skills training, clients participate in social peer led activities. The social activities are available for no cost to participants. Common outings include: PGA Golf lessons, The Escape Room, and Art Classes. One time they became a Weather Sensor, and each person received certification as a storm watcher. They even went to Comic Con! How exciting is that? Some of the businesses they partner with include:
- Computer Repair Shops
- Independent Doctors Office
- Music Store (Independently Owned)
- Dog Groomer (Small Business)
- Insurance Office (Private)
Program participants get paid, gain real world experiences, and increase knowledge toward the goal of independence.
One of the many program success stories includes that of a young lady who is showing potential to be hired with the employer. She creates graphics for her employer and uses social media to help draw clients to the private company. She also does accounting work and enjoys it. She has achieved her goals for employment, adjusted to her environment and is open to gaining more knowledge for her continued success.
To learn more about the Discover Your Potential program at Gulfstream Goodwill, contact Jennifer Lewenec at (772) 337-0077 or visit gulfstreamgoodwill.org/dyp.