For years, Carroll High School senior Jenny has talked about how much she wants to get a job.
Now with the help of Easterseals Arc, she’s getting experience every weekday afternoon working at Manchester University in Fort Wayne. She helps with cleaning, laundry, and data entry. She’s learned many new skills from her supervisor, Phillip Spann, Manchester’s Fort Wayne facilities and safety coordinator.
“She’s usually pretty independent,” Spann said. “She’s doing really well. Most days, she’s a self-motivator.”
A key to Jenny carrying out many of her duties without close supervision is a checklist she uses to pace her work and remind her of all her tasks. There’s a lot to do – 16 different tasks, as they’re broken down on her checklist.
They cover quite a range: vacuuming and sweeping in common areas on two floors, wiping down tables in a meeting room, cleaning counters at the reception desk, entering names and other information from a visitor’s log into a database, moving rags from a washer to a dryer, and more.
Jenny connected with the work opportunity at Manchester through Easterseals Arc’s Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS). Through Pre-ETS, students at several area high schools have access to employment counseling, work experience, workplace readiness instruction and training in self-advocacy. Any student with an IEP or a 504 plan is eligible to participate in Pre-ETS.
Jenny already had worked at a Pizza Hut through Pre-ETS. The opportunity at Manchester came after a Manchester employee learned about Pre-ETS through a social connection with a Pre-ETS supervisor.
Jenny is a quiet and friendly woman who gets along well with Manchester employees. She listens attentively when Spann teaches her something new, as on a recent afternoon when she learned how to operate a carpet cleaner and how to fill and empty its water reservoir. For his part, Spann is personable and patient and has developed a strong rapport with Jenny. If he corrects something she’s done incorrectly, Jenny listens calmly, treating it as another chance to learn.
In fact, she says that other workers at Manchester make the job enjoyable. “I like the people,” she said.
Her mother, Anne Miller, an assistant principal at Brentwood Elementary, hears nothing but glowing reports from Jenny.
“She loves it. She absolutely loves it,” Miller said. “Every day, she says what a great day she had.”
In spite of how much she enjoys working at Manchester, Miller says Jenny still talks about wanting to land a job at a restaurant or a clothing store.
“I think she gets a lot of meaning and purpose through (work),” Miller said. “She feels useful, and I think that’s really, really important to her.”