Please enjoy this recent article from The Jewish Journal

The Jewish Journal  

ARTICLE AND PHOTOS BY TANA GOLDBERG

The seven newest graduates of the Transitions to Work program proudly hold their certificates at the December 11 graduation ceremony at NewBridge on the Charles.

BOSTON — Matt Obuchon had a fear of the unknown when he began an internship in the kitchen at NewBridge on the Charles in Dedham last year. He had been laid off from his previous job because he didn’t have the necessary skills to advance, and he had been looking for work for five years. But thanks to Transitions to Work — a unique collaboration among the Ruderman Family Foundation, Combined Jewish Philanthropies and Jewish Vocational Services (JVS) — Obuchon is one of 71 young adults with disabilities who are being mentored, trained and assisted in finding meaningful work.

Graduating last year from the three-month intensive classroom and internship program, Obuchon currently works as a kitchen steward at NewBridge, mentoring other interns.

“I’d be lost without this job,” Obuchon told the seven new graduates and their families who gathered at NewBridge December 11 for a graduation ceremony.

“We’re so happy this kind of program is available,” said his mother, A. Jay Obuchon.

According to the Ruderman Family Foundation, an estimated 5,200 adults with disabilities in the Boston Jewish community have jobs. But another 19,000 are unemployed and eager to work to gain the financial independence and stability that a job can provide.

Transitions to Work began in July 2011. Fully funded by the Ruderman Family Foundation, the program serves people ages 18-35 of any religion, at no cost to participants. Each three-month training program has about eight participants, who attend classes five days a week at a training site, followed by an internship. Classes focus on transferable skills, such as customer service. JVS employment specialists are onsite throughout the training.

The Transitions program provides a year of support to help all students find jobs. Employment partners have included Anton’s Cleaners, CVS, Goddard House Assisted Living, Legal Seafood, NewBridge, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, DXL Group, Prime Motor Group, Petco, Panera Cares, Pooch Palace, Saunders Hotel Group, Whitsons School Nutrition and others. Of the 71 Transitions graduates to date, 70 percent have been placed in jobs, with a 100 percent retention rate.

“Transitions to Work is tapping into an under-utilized, very skilled employee base,” said Beth Tauro, CJP community liaison. “Businesses that have hired our graduates recognize how important these employees are, and what they bring to their organization.”

As she handed certificates to the seven graduates, Madeline Wenzel, Transitions to Work director, told them, “You will be changing perceptions.”

Transitions graduate Michael Foley is pictured with his parents, Marie and Richard, and Sharon Shapiro (center), trustee of the Ruderman Family Foundation.

Graduation speaker Michael Foley, who interned at Treats N Nosh at NewBridge, began paid employment there last week. “It was a welcoming environment,” he said. “Now I have a job. I like customer service and being with people.”

His mother, Marie Foley, echoed his enthusiasm. “We’re very thankful,” she said. “They’ve really worked with him.”

Amy Dasch, mother of graduate Andrew Dasch, said, “Transitions is such an appropriate name. This program is about moving forward. They never talk about disability. What sold us is that Andrew has support for the next year.”

Andrew interned in the engineering department at NewBridge, and will be starting full-time employment this week as a locker room attendant at the JCC in Newton.

“Transitions to Work is completely about getting a job and keeping it,” Andrew said proudly.

The goal of Transitions to Work is very simple, according to Carol Grady, JVS chief operating officer. “Through training in an employer worksite, participants can get the skills they need to become valuable members of the workforce. They can do meaningful work that we need them to do, and they are grateful for the opportunity.”

The Ruderman Family Foundation has been actively involved for many years in Jewish education. “But we found a great need for young adults with disabilities when we learned that 80 percent of people with disabilities in the U.S. are not employed,” said Sharon Shapiro, trustee and family member of the Ruderman Family Foundation. “We spend the majority of our adult lives working, but we heard from parents that these young adults have no structure in their lives.”

The Ruderman Family Foundation approached CJP with grant funding for a partnership to create a successful program. At the Transitions to Work kickoff in 2011, Gov. Deval Patrick said, “This is a boost for the economy of Massachusetts.”

“It’s a win/win situation,” Shapiro said. “As employees, our Transitions graduates have longevity and reliability. We’re very proud of this partnership, and are looking forward to it continuing and spreading.”

JoAnn Simons, president of the Cardinal Cushing Center and an adviser to the Ruderman Family Foundation, told the graduates, “You’re on your way to a bright, wonderful future using your skills from Transitions. Together we’ve demonstrated that with the right training, employment is not a dream, but a reality.”

To learn more about Transitions to Work, either as a participant or employer, visit cjp.org.

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