MILWAUKEE – In the same month that a new study found one in three young U.S. adults with autism has no paid job experience or higher education seven years after high school graduation, a Milwaukee Public Schools ceremony set for Thursday will highlight the district’s long-standing model program to make that number smaller – and the success of its students with many different disabilities.
Nearly 100 students who have been working at 16 sites across the Milwaukee area will be honored for mastering workplace skills through Milwaukee Public Schools’ School-to-Work Transition program. The recognition luncheon is set for 11 a.m. on Thursday at Mount Mary College’s Bergstrom Hall Alumnae Dining Room, 2900 N. Menomonee River Parkway, Milwaukee 53222 (entrance is on 92ndStreet between Center and Burleigh sts.).
The program, which serves a total of roughly 400 students in any given year, provides three tiers to prepare students with disabilities for the workplace, including a tier of paid competitive employment. Other school systems have used it as a model for their own programs.
Jessica Fritz – whose son is an MPS graduate, a product of School-to-Work and has a disorder along the Autism spectrum – said when she talks to parents of children who are like her son, they wish their children had the same opportunity “because other school districts don’t have that. I think that MPS has done a great service to the people in our community by offering this.”
Her son Tyler had paid employment during part of his time in the MPS School-to-Work Transition program. When he graduated, he worked at a local mall pizza parlor before going on to work at a local FedEx branch, which recently named him employee of the month.
“It felt really special to me,” Tyler Fritz said.
Mario Nash is about to graduate from MPS – and School-to-Work – himself. The Milwaukee School of Languages student said he feels the program has prepared him to begin coursework at Milwaukee Area Technical College.
Mario, who is among the students set to be honored Thursday, said the program has been “great. It’s helped me out through life.” His father, Raffael, called School-to-Work “excellent … It’s keeping my son engaged and helping him learn great responsibilities as a young adult.”
Jane Ahl, MPS employment training specialist, said the program allows students to show what they know. Employers find value in the program as well, she said.
“I’ve seen CEOs come in to see the students work. They’re very touched — and impressed,” Ahl said.
Employers are set to be a part of Thursday’s celebration. Media are invited to attend. If you’re interested, please contact Tony Tagliavia, MPS media manager, at 414.475.8675.