Avondale School District SKILL Program Hires New Facilitator

Candidate demonstrates experience and capacity for working with students with special needs

Susan Jackson loves helping people with special needs so when she learned about a job with the Avondale School District post-high school transition program, SKILL, she knew she wanted to apply. SKILL is for 18 – 26 year old district residents who have a disability and who want to increase their vocational and daily living independence. “I love working with this group.  I love their differences, I love the way they look at the world, and I really love helping them grow and move forward in their lives.” As the new Program Facilitator for the program, Jackson will have the chance to do just that.

Pictured L-R:  Susan Jackson, Avondale SKILL Program Facilitator with Karen Olex, Avondale Deputy Superintendent

Pictured L-R: Susan Jackson, Avondale SKILL Program Facilitator with Karen Olex, Avondale Deputy Superintendent

“Everyone, and not just students with special needs, should work toward raising their skill level in terms of the things they need to do to be successful. For this group of students, it’s important that they always work to become as independent and self-sufficient as possible within the parameters they’ve developed with their families,” Jackson said.

Jackson knows that families don’t always share the same vision of what independence looks like. “For some people it’s having their child move out on their own or with roommates. For others it’s having their child remain in their home while taking on some of the day-to-day tasks like meal preparation or cleaning and yard work. Whatever that vision is, that’s what we’ll work toward here at SKILL.”

In her eighth year of working with people with special needs on their vocational development, Jackson brings her experience of job site management to the SKILL team. “The practice job sites are a balancing act. You really have to work with the onsite employees and meld their expectations with the students’ learning goals.”

Practice job sites are part of the SKILL vocational curriculum that also includes exploring vocational interests and aptitudes, job seeking, resume writing and interview skill building. On the independent living side of the program, staff works with students on functional literacy and mathematics; health and safety; budgeting and shopping; meal planning and preparation; and productive leisure time discovery. Jackson will serve both sides of the curriculum in addition to developing additional job sites as students’ interests and aptitudes change and will also act as a liaison with the community.

Karen Olex, Avondale Deputy Superintendent who also oversees Avondale’s Special Education Department was on the SKILL Program’s development team six years ago when the program was being planned. “When we first developed SKILL we knew we wanted the staff to be flexible and dynamic and able to change and grow with the students. Susan’s experience demonstrates that she has that capacity as well as the community relations skills to be a strong point person for the program.”

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