Transitions to Work is proud to announce that five program participants recently graduated from its three month training and internship program with Whitsons School Nutrition at Newton North High School. The Transitions to Work program is a collaboration between Combined Jewish Philanthropies, The Ruderman Family Foundation and Jewish Vocational Service,  and provides an extensive training and internship program to enable young adults with disabilities to develop the skills needed for employment and place them into jobs that provide earnings and a sense of purpose.

Whitsons Newton North employees welcomed the Transitions to Work interns to the Newton North cafeteria team for the training and internship program. The interns received classroom instruction in job readiness issues and gained hands-on work experience and training. The interns work included customer service, food preparation, food portioning and back of the house support positions. JVS provides full time on site staff support for the interns and employer during the three month program.

The Transitions to Work interns and the Whitsons employees agree it was a win-win experience for all. The program was not only highly beneficial for the interns, but also for the Whitsons employees. In addition to adding diversity to the current team, working with individuals with disabilities motivated the work group to new successes and increased productivity of the team. Micah Fleisig, the Transitions to Work Employment Specialist for JVS, applauded Whitsons commitment to individuals with disabilities and to the Transitions to Work interns; “Due to the staff, chef and administration, Whitsons has been a wonderful work site for our interns. I have been completely impressed with the balance of mentoring and compassion with their professionalism and productivity. Our interns are obviously learning transferable skills, but the inspiring work environment and community feel have been nothing less than humbling.”

 Josh, one of the Transitions interns, spoke at the graduation. His words highlight the significance of the experience Whitsons provided to all of the Transitions to Work interns; “Thank you so much for letting us come in and do this work. Whitsons helped us use different types of tools. When we get a job somewhere and they ask us if we have used those tools, now we can say “yes”… I seriously like Whitsons and its people more than anything and will never forget. They are very superb and helpful… I like how we are able to work together and always ask when we had any problems. I really enjoyed learning different and new things in the back. I also liked learning how to use the grill, serve food, and food prep from all of the Whitsons Staff.”

 Whitsons looks forward to hosting future Transitions to Work training and internship programs and is considering expanding the program to other school sites.  April Liles, Food Service Director – Newton Public Schools Whitsons School Nutrition, is a big supporter. April mentioned that Whitsons saw this experience as an opportunity to partner with the community and it turned out better than even anticipated. The interns arrived every day, on time, eager to work and learn, and became members of the team. The interns put in extra effort to fully benefit from the experience. She was quick to  highlight the three months.”The experience was amazing for Whitsons, the interns, and all involved. We would do it again in a heartbeat”. 

Transitions to Work’s goal is to engage the corporate and business community to increase employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.   The unemployment rate for individuals with disabilities is, on average, twice as high as the general population. Individuals with disabilities are an underused pool of talented, skilled, and qualified applicants and are incredibly able, dedicated and successful colleagues, yet getting hired is a high hurdle.  In its first year, Transitions to Work enrolled 38 young adults with disabilities in five training and internship programs.  Initial training and internship partners are: Hebrew Senior Life’s NewBridge on the Charles, CVS, and Whitsons Culinary. Over  60% of the young adults who completed the training have been placed in jobs including at Whitsons, NewBridge on the Charles, Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Star Market, Fresh Pond Cinema, The Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center, Au Bon Pain, Margarita’s, Hannaford’s and Little Sprouts Preschool.  Transitions to Work is growing its effort to educate companies on inclusive hiring practices and to enlist new employers as training and hiring partners. Please contact Beth Tauro (betht@cjp.org) at Combined Jewish Philanthropies or Madeline Wenzel(mwenzel@jvs-boston.org) at JVS if you would like additional information about the Transitions to Work program.

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