Something special is taking place at the Oak Ridge Goodwill.
The Oak Ridge Goodwill location houses both a popular retail store and a small Goodwill Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (ET&R) Center. Clients like Maura Cadmus come to Goodwill to gain meaningful employment skills through Goodwill’s Work Adjustment program. They work closely with Goodwill Program Managers to develop their skills, and they are able to gain practical experience in the stores, processing donations, working the sales floor and engaging with customers.
Maura, like the five other current Work Adjustment clients at Oak Ridge, has never held a job, and she may have never before thought of herself as a leader. She can now, thanks to a group of high school students from Oliver Springs High School.
A small group of students are coming to Goodwill for five hours per week, where they are trying to learn basic vocational and social skills. These students are partnering with Goodwill as part of their Comprehensive Development Classroom (CDC), a nontraditional special education program for students with significant cognitive disabilities. Through CDC, the students are given real-world experiences, preparing them for supported employment, while working in a small, structured environment.
When the CDC students first started visiting Goodwill, there wasn’t much interaction between them and the Work Adjustment clients. Goodwill ET&R staff was busy rotating between the two groups, making sure each person was learning their task. But soon, the Work Adjustment clients began working with the CDC students.
The pairings started happening naturally and then became routine. Once the Work Adjustment clients felt comfortable with their own tasks, they began helping the students, working together to process donations, hang clothing, organize and pull clothing.
“It’s been a good experience,” said Maura. “I’m a lot more patient than I thought I was.” Not only is Maura learning to work with students with a variety of disabilities, but she is learning to communicate effectively to train them. “They need different sets of directions. They have different personalities and different work styles.”
“Maura has grown tremendously since she started at Goodwill,” says ET&R Coordinator Jenny Heaton. “She would barely make eye contact and she was very soft spoken when she would answer questions. Now, she speaks to everyone when she comes in the door.” Maura answers questions from customers and helps new Work Adjustment clients transition into the program. “Her entire countenance has changed and she carries herself with far more confidence,” Jenny shared.
After working with the CDC students and assisting with the newer Work Adjustment clients, Maura has decided she may be interested in working with kids when she finishes her Work Adjustment program.
Learn more about Goodwill's Work Adjustment program. By donating and shopping at Goodwill, you directly support our vocational programs and employment services, which help change lives like Maura’s.