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Opening Doors to the Business World

Opening Doors to the Business World
When Abby, age 20, needed to gain valuable job skills after graduating from high school, she turned to Benedictine's Supported Employment Hospitality Training Program to help her transition into her new job with Marriott's Fairfield Inn & Suites in Easton, MD. Through a referral from Maryland's Department of Rehabilitation Services (DORS), Abby was able to participate in Benedictine's highly successful eight-week program. The hospitality training program is designed to assist qualified students with disabilities, ages 14 to 21, who are in high school or who have graduated from high school; who have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for their disabilities; and who are living with parents or in the community.

According to Candy Jordan, Supported Employment/ Community Services director at Benedictine, "It is essential that we introduce transitioning students at an early age to the idea of community employment. This jump starts employment options and career planning, which are invaluable to securing and retaining a competitive wage job as an adult.

"Our local business community has offered numerous opportunities for transitional students, who are referred to us by DORS, to gain hands-on experience in the hotel and restaurant industry. We have created wonderful partnerships within our community that offer our students a quality work experience."

Gaffney Shepherd, Benedictine's program lead for DORS-funded programs, adds, "Initially parents are often nervous to have their children training out in the community, but when they see what the students have accomplished, it gives them hope for their futures." Since the program began over five years ago, Benedictine has been able to partner with a number of hospitality and retail businesses in communities across the Mid Shore. The Hospitality Training Program partners with the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake in Cambridge, the Masthead in Oxford, Denny's in Easton, Knoxie's Table at the Inn at Chesapeake Bay Beach Club in Stevensville, and Marriott's Fairfield Inn & Suites, among others. Through two-hour visits with their job coaches to these sites, students explore the employment skills needed for a career in the hotel and restaurant industry.

At the Fairfield Inn & Suites, the students enjoy a very interactive experience. Because of the students' performances, they have been invited back to the hotel time and time again?several gaining employment with the Inn. According to Dr. David Hill, owner of Hill Hospitality, which manages the Fairfield Inn & Suites, "I have always had great admiration for the Benedictine School going way back in time. Sister Jeannette did an amazing job and the facility continues to uphold the highest standards. I feel very privileged to work with members of the Benedictine community."

At the conclusion of their eight-weeks in the program, students participate in a graduation ceremony receiving a certificate and the knowledge of best job skills. DORS then continues support providing the students with work readiness skills and assistance with resume writing and job applications. The result?many Benedictine students with developmental disabilities are hired in the community.
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