In June 2008, with funding from the Children’s Services Council of Broward County, the Foundation launched Summer STEPS (Supported Training and Employment Program for Special Needs). Since its inception, this ground-breaking program has given over 240 teenagers and young adults with developmental disabilities experience in a supported work environment, learning communication, social and teamwork skills.
Interns work 30 hours per week for eight weeks of the summer and earn a paycheck for their efforts. Each worksite employs four interns with one job coach, so a high level of independence must be displayed by the interns. Worksites are screened to determine job duties, physical/ cognitive demands, mobility, pace/hours, social demands and environmental factors. Candidates are interviewed, and job preferences, responsibilities, and skill levels are assessed. Interns are matched to positions which correspond to their strengths and interests, vocational skills, communication, sensory and social issues, physical/cognitive demands of the job, independent functioning, and transportation access.
Throughout the past four years, 98% of the interns completed the program, over 46 have continued onto part- or full-time jobs, and 31 are in college. All outcomes have been exceeded, and parent, employer, job coach, and intern surveys garnered over 99% positive evaluations. Furthermore, interns gain tremendous self esteem and confidence, as well as the respect of their coworkers and employers.