|From left to right,
Cecil Apostol '08, Kristina, Kimberly Greenberg , Bobby and
go over math problems at the Davenport Campus Center. Kristine, Bobby and
Carolyn are students enrolled in the Middlesex Transition Academy, which
meets at Wesleyan daily. Pictured below are Jesse, Jessica Markowitz '08,
Bobby and Lauren.
Programs Provide Jobs, Friendships for Special-Needs Adults
The pizza served at McConaughy Dining Hall is
prepared by a new member of the Wesleyan community. As part of a cooperative
educational program for individuals with special needs, 19-year-old Kristina
is learning hands-on how to work in food services.
“I prep the dough, oil the pans, and flip it,” Kristina says. “I technically
make the whole pizza. I haven’t thought a lot about it, but I might want to
work in a restaurant or pizza place after this. I do like to work with
Preparing Kristina and six other disabled adults aged 18-21 to function
individually in the community is the goal of the Middlesex Transition
Academy. Launched in March 2004, the academy helps disabled individuals who
recently graduated from area high schools find employment. Wesleyan provides
classroom space and job opportunities for the grant-funded program.
Under direction of a job coach, the academy members learn about their
strengths and weaknesses, managing money and social skills. While on campus,
they also attend functional academic classes in the Davenport Campus Center.
At Wesleyan, they are assigned various jobs at Davenport, Exley Science
Center, McConaughy Dining Hall, Freeman Athletic Center and WesShop.
Frank Kuan, director of Community Relations for the Center for Community
Partnerships, says having the academy students on campus offers an excellent
opportunity for them to be connected with Wesleyan students. The university
also benefits by having this diverse group as part of the Wesleyan
“It is gratifying to see the growth of these students during their time on
campus,” Kuan says. “You can see them developing their life skills and
independence. This community connection is truly a win-win for all of us.”
While Lauren, 18, sorts and folds mail at the science center, Bobby, 18, is
busy washing dishes at McConaughy or stocking shelves at WesShop.
Both agree that working in a college environment is gratifying. Bobby enjoys
the friends he’s made. Lauren favors the college atmosphere and is
overwhelmed by “cute college boys.”
“The job is pretty easy, and I just love working for money,” says Bobby, who
works five days a week. “I love money!”
Normally, when a student is 18 and graduates from high school, he or she
goes on to college or employment. Christine Jakubiec, an academy teacher,
says the academy provides opportunities to address individual transition
goals in an age-appropriate, college environment for these disabled adults
in the 18-21 year range. As her pupils get closer to the age of 21, they are
weaned off a job coach and should be ready to find similar jobs in local
seven students enrolled in the Middlesex Transition Academy also are part of
Wesleyan’s student program called "Best Buddies." Best Buddies
matches Wesleyan students with adults from the Middlesex County area.
Wesleyan’s Center for Community Partnerships began spearheading this
collaboration last year. Best Buddies go bowling (pictured at left), star
gazing and participate in other monthly activities.
Kimberly Greenberg ’07 says her buddy, Rick, brightens her moods. She can
always find him making pizzas at McConaughy during the lunch hours.
In his second year with the organization, College Buddy Director Cecil
Apostol '08 has developed a meaningful relationship with his buddy Winston,
28. Apostol feels that society stigmatizes people like Winston.
"They have been neglected and marginalized as much as any other minority
group,” Apostol says. “We expose them to a world that was denied to them for
so long. Together, we both embrace the opportunity to participate in a
long-lasting, meaningful friendship."
Best Buddies is accepting associate members. For more information e-mail
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
The Transition Academy meets at the Campus Center from 8 a.m. to noon
Monday, Wednesday and Friday and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday.
Olivia Bartlett, Wesleyan Connection editor