When Juan Ortega began the summer work experience program last June, he had no idea what an impact it would have on him. Ortega is currently a transition student in Redmond, now in his final year of school. Last June, he enrolled in a state-funded program that helps students learn pre-employment skills, and exposes them to different kinds of workplaces in their community. In this program, students are paid for their work, unlike some internships or shadowing experiences.

Hannah Arends, Youth Transition Program (YTP) coordinator for the Redmond School district, organized and led the summer work program. “We had nine students sign up, and they were an amazing group,” said Arends. “These students were all very hardworking and dedicated, and motivated to prepare for their future,” she continued.

While each of the students learned important skills over the summer, Ortega’s experience was truly a success story. He joined the class in work experiences at Grocery Outlet and Abby’s Pizza, where the students explored various work roles. Those were positive experiences, but when he started working in custodial services in the schools, things really started to click.


A learning experience grows into employment

Ortega’s work hours at the schools grew steadily, from just an hour or two each day until he was working full time. Along the way, his responsibilities grew, too. He spent time working at several different schools over the summer, including Brown, Tuck, and Sage. He also was very involved in the cleanup effort after a major hailstorm hit school property.

Ortega said he was surprised at how much he was able to do, and how much he enjoyed the work. His favorite part of the job is moving the tables and chairs, and arranging them for different purposes. Dan Chappas, Custodial Supervisor at Redmond Schools, worked closely with Ortega and helped him succeed in taking on additional work.

“Juan learned to work in a variety of situations and school settings. It’s been wonderful to see the tremendous growth over the summer!” exclaimed Arends.


Making plans for the future

As Ortega returns to school for his final year as a transition student, his plans for the future are falling into place. He’s been invited to apply for permanent employment with the Redmond School District as part of their custodial staff.  The summer program is funded through September, and Ortega hopes to continue on as an employee, working part-time until his school schedule allows him to go full-time.

After this work experience, Ortega is busy making more plans for the future: next on his list of goals is saving for a car, and looking for his own apartment or housing arrangement.

“Chappa expressed a lot of confidence in Juan’s abilities, and feels he is ready to take on a full-time position,” said Arends. “We couldn’t be more pleased with how this work experience turned out,” she continued. More information on the 2019 summer work grants can be found on the Transition Network Blog, or check with the Youth Transition Program coordinator in your school district about plans for 2020 work experience opportunities.