Jackson County Times Thursday, April 21, 2022
NextStep Participants gain competitive employment, complete pilot program
Individuals with autism thriving with employment, communication and social goals
SUBMITTED BY DYLAN BASS, PIO FOR JCBOCC Marianna, Florida (April 18, 2022) All six NextStep at Endeavor Academy partici- pants are competitively employed in posi- tions earning equal payment in jobs that will continue beyond their recently completed 12-week pilot program. Participants, ages 21-27, worked for a va- riety of employers including two at Catalyst Fabric Solutions in Marianna, assisting with web-to-textile fulfillment manufacturing, and another at Hands and Hearts for Horses, a premier accredited therapeutic horseback riding center in Georgia. Two had never held a job before. NextStep is being launched by Jackson County Board of County Commissioners along with Endeavor Forward, Inc., a non- profit organization. NextStep at Endeavor Academy is part of the 1200-acre Endeavor Park mixed-use development at the site of the former Dozier School for Boys in Mari- anna. NextStep's pilot program ran from late January to April while the site is under construction. "NextStep at Endeavor Academy is offering high caliber services to our local community, allowing fami- lies to avoid traveling far for these unparalleled autism services," said Wilanne Daniels, Jackson County administrator. "NextStep is putting Marianna on the map locally, regionally and nationally. At the same time, we hope NextStep helps to attract new em- ployers that need dedicated workers and supports exist- ing businesses with growth plans." The participants at Cata- lyst began working there one day a week and in- creased their workload to two days a week as they exceeded expectations. The participants inspect suits for tears and hanging threads, make cardboard boxes and turn boots inside out. Kyle Todd, 23, didn't do much after graduating from Blountstown High School in 2016 but wanted a purpose and to attend college, like his siblings. "NextStep at Endeavor Academy has shown our fam- ily Kyle's potential and that he can do things we never knew he could. He is making a contribution to society and he is loving it," said his mother, Kelly Todd. "Being from a small, rural community, we don't have much ac- cess to services. NextStep has opened a new world for Kyle where he is thriving." Now Kyle shows initiative in arranging transporta- tion, pays for some of his own expenses, manages his own cell phone, and understands he is part of an inte- gral team at his first job, Catalyst, where he turns boots inside out and prepares them to be shipped and makes boxes. His goal is to always finish more boots than his previous shift. Now that the pilot program is over, he wants to continue working at Catalyst. And Catalyst values Kyle and another participant, Ben Alvarez, said Jim King, Catalyst operations man- ager and Endeavor Forward board member. Kyle and Ben have quickly learned the skills needed to succeed in the job, demonstrated high attention to detail and expressed a desire for more autonomy in their jobs, King said. "Staff shortages post-Covid are very real. If I have employees like Kyle and Ben, who want to work, then I can really start growing a stable workforce," King said. Catalyst completed Florida State University's Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD) Autism- Friendly Business Initiative training in late 2021. In ad- dition, NextStep provides the businesses with training to work with the participants. "It is completely easy and seamless," King said. "The participants make us feel more human and remind us to not take life for granted. I have been blown away at how my staff has welcomed the participants and we look for- ward to more students." NextStep is coaching the participants to maintain and improve their employment and assisting them with specific goals such as pursuing full-time employment and applying for other jobs. Goals are individualized for each participant, such as arranging meetings and a job shadowing opportunity for a participant who wants to be an accountant with an autistic person in that field. Participants also took classes as part of the Learn- 4Independence curriculum about employment and making connections. Two took in-person classes in Marianna and the others, some of whom live in Tal- lahassee and needed less support, took virtual classes. Other accomplishments: They engaged in a volunteer activity with Backpacks for Kids and packed 325 backpacks full of food for chil- dren experiencing food insecurity during Spring Break. Four of the participants who do not drive and did not know how to use public transportation can now sched- ule public transportation themselves. Participants are spontaneously greeting each other and asking each other about their weekend. NextStep trained the participants on "soft skills," such as thinking of others and being team players. The two participants who took in-person classes gave presentations on the importance of soft skills at their workplaces. The participants who attended virtual classes decided on their own to meet for lunch on the weekends. The employers are undergoing training to encourage autonomy and independence for the participants' work environments. NextStep encourages the businesses to allow the individuals the opportunity to make mistakes and their own choices. Parents engaged in monthly seminars to assist their adult children in greater independence. One mother mentioned she never thought she would see her son go off to work. "The participants made meaningful gains in ways that will help them find even more autonomy," said NextStep's Director Tammy Dasher. "I'm most excited by the participants' spontaneous desires to connect with each other and stretch their skills at independence on their own. I am so proud of their accomplishments, especially in such a short amount of time." Interested NextStep program applicants, families, and employers should email info@NextStepatEndeav- or.org or call (850) 633-7146. About NextStep at Endeavor Academy NextStep at Endeavor Academy is being launched by Jackson County Board of County Commissioners along with Endeavor Forward, Inc., a Florida-based not-for-profit which supports the development and operations of an autism transition, employment, and residential program as part of an inclusive community where the benefits of educating and employing individuals with autism are broadly understood, supported, and valued. NextStep at Endeavor Academy will prepare individuals with autism for transition beyond sec- ondary school by providing instruction in employment and independent living skills. Future phases include residential living opportunities and community-wide engagement. Visit www.nextstepatendeavor.org.
John Howard Baldino, a participant in NextStep at Endeavor Academy's pilot program, is competitively employed at Hands and Hearts for Horses in Georgia. All six pilot program participants are working in positions that will continue beyond the recently completed pilot program.
NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING
The Marianna City Commission will conduct a public hearing on May 3, 2022 at 6:00 p.m., in the City Commission Chambers located at 2897 Jefferson Street, Marianna, Florida to consider the adoption of the following Ordinance and such other business that may come before the City Commission:
1. ORDINANCE #1120 - AN ORDINANCE AMENDING ORDINANCE 812, WHICH ADOPTED THE CITY OF MARIANNA COMPREHENSIVE PLAN AND ORDINANCE 1116, WHICH AMENDED THE CITY OF MARIANNA COMPREHENSIVE PLAN AND FUTURE LAND USE MAP TO PROVIDE FOR THE ADOPTION OF A CERTAIN COMPREHENSIVE PLAN AMENDMENT (EA 2022-01) TO THE CITY OF MARIANNA COMPREHENSIVE PLAN; PROVIDING FOR SEVERABILITY AND FOR REPEALER; PROVIDING FOR AN EFFECTIVE DATE. 2. ORDINANCE #1125 - AN ORDINANCE AMENDING ORDINANCE 812, WHICH ADOPTED THE CITY OF MARIANNA COMPREHENSIVE PLAN AND ORDINANCE 1120, WHICH AMENDED THE CITY OF MARIANNA COMPREHENSIVE PLAN AND FUTURE LAND USE MAP TO PROVIDE FOR THE ADOPTION OF A CERTAIN COMPREHENSIVE PLAN AMENDMENT (EA 2022-02) TO THE CITY OF MARIANNA COMPREHENSIVE PLAN; PROVIDING FOR SEVERABILITY AND FOR REPEALER; PROVIDING FOR AN EFFECTIVE DATE.
Interested parties are encouraged to attend the meeting. Copies of the request may be viewed in the City of Marianna Municipal Development Department located at 2897 Jefferson Street, Marianna, Florida during regular business hours or by calling (850) 482-2786. Please be advised that if a person decides to appeal any decision made by the Marianna City Commission with respect to any matter considered at this hearing, such person will need a record of the proceedings, and for this purpose such person may need to ensure that a verbatim record of the proceedings is made, which record includes the testimony and evidence upon which the appeal is based. The City of Marianna does not provide or prepare such record pursuant to F.S. 286.0105. In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, persons with disabilities needing a special accommodation to participate in this proceeding should contact the City Clerk at City Hall, at 2898 Green Street, Marianna, Florida, 32446, or by calling (850)482-4353, no later than three (3) days prior to the proceedings.
L5681 Date of Publication: 04/21/2022Previous Page