October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and Williamson Inc. celebrated by honoring Hampton Inn & Suites in Cool Springs for being one of the Williamson County School District’s Transition II job training locations.
Transition II is a post-high-school program for young adults, ages 18 to 22, with disabilities, where the schools prepare students for the workforce through on-the-job training. The school district partners with several businesses in different industries, such as food service, retail and hospitality, throughout the county to give these young adults practical experience alongside their extended classroom learning through a kind of internship model.
Hampton Inn & Suites is just one of the local businesses hosting students throughout the day.
Christina Halen, director of sales at Hampton Inn, said that this is the hotel’s second year to participate in this program.
“We have a student at the desk right now. We have somebody in breakfast,” she said. “We have a student helping in sales and admin work. We have somebody helping in housekeeping, and we have kids in maintenance right now, so every single department in this hotel is touched by this program.”
Marie Wicks, a transition teacher for WCS, said that program directors do their best to match jobs with each student’s strengths, placing about 90 kids into businesses throughout the county with only five buses.
“All day long, our buses are zig-zagging across the county to take kids to work,” she said. “They go with a job coach, and it’s all about getting ready for the next step, living more independently.”
Rob Upton, a workplace readiness coordinator with WCS, said the students are also immersed in learning when they’re not in the workplace. He said they complete a slew of on-campus tasks at the schools, such as watering plants and delivering mail, and in the classroom, they learn skills such as financial literacy and good hygiene to truly prepare them for their future careers.
Special-education teacher assistant Chad Gates pointed out one of his students working at Hampton Inn that day at the front desk.
“She’s experienced just about everything you can at the front desk, from customers that are very happy … to those that aren’t,” he said. “The staff here — they just instantly helped her out and got her in the right spot.”
Wicks said that while the schools are, by law, required to work with students who have disabilities until the age of 22, county school district officials decided to develop this robust program to help students get a foot in the door with local businesses.
“We truly embrace community,” she said.
To learn more about the Transition II program, visit wcs.edu.