Two adult special education students leave their East Islip classroom four days a week this school year to visit an auto repair shop, where they help transform a small school bus into a tank-themed vehicle that will serve as transportation for local veterans.
Their project is an internship made possible by CORE – or Career Readiness Education – and is part of East Islip High School’s work-based learning program. The initiative, led by teacher Bridget Lopiccolo, connects special education students to unpaid internships that provide valuable life skills and enhance students’ work experience, she said. It also helps reduce barriers to placement for people with disabilities, educators and experts said.
Three class periods are set aside for on-the-job learning, when students, dressed in their red work shirts, visit construction sites from October to May. The program offers adult students access to eight different locations, including the Winters Center for Autism in West Babylon, Islander Laundromat in Ronkonkoma, Lee’s Auto Body & Glass in East Islip, and various restaurants and retail stores.
“All of these sites offer different skills to students, from retail to fine-skills,” Lopiccolo said. “So we’re trying to start with more retail, and as they get established, we then refine where they’re going to work.”
Cody Solomon, 19, is one of the students who visits Lee’s Auto Body & Glass in East Islip twice a week as part of his CORE program where he helped business partner Gary Teich create a camouflage tank from of a small school bus that was donated. by the Suffolk Transportation Company. Teich, who called it an “incredible experience,” will donate the vehicle on Thursday to the nonprofit Bravo Foxtrot Veterans Group, which will use it to drive veterans to their appointments.
“I love working with the automotive program. … [Teich] taught me how to work and how to listen,” Solomon said, adding that he hopes to eventually learn how to paint vehicles.
CORE spans three academic years for adult special education students, where they learn essential life skills, such as cooking, hygiene, and budgeting, and gain work experience, which complements their resume and gives them an edge in finding career opportunities, Lopiccolo said.
“I think experiential learning is great for everyone, whether you have a disability or not,” said Stephen Hernandez, director of special education for children at Hofstra University and former professional instructor. . “I think experiential learning is so important to getting those life skills or being able to live as independently as possible.”
Student Eric Petersen, 20, visits the Islander Laundromat twice a week where he learns how to clean and maintain the washing machines, he said. Laundromat co-owner Steve Foray previously employed two students at his insurance office, Foray Agency Inc. in East Islip, where students learned how to manage paperwork and create digital copies of documents.
The work is deeper than might appear at first glance, Foray said. Students learn time management, professionalism, how to work under supervision and communication – all vital skills for any industry, he said.
“I think it’s an amazing program that benefits the whole community,” Foray said. “It gives them hands-on learning experience as part of their high school lifelong learning program. … It gives them a competitive advantage.
What there is to know:
East Islip High School offers a work-based learning program for adult students in special education.
Through the program, students learn valuable life skills, such as cooking and budgeting, and gain work experience.
Students visit work sites four times a week where they learn skills in communication, how to work under supervision and time management.