As every student and staff member at Seaport Academy will tell you, finishing high school is not the end, it is a beginning.
From the moment a student joins us at Seaport, we begin planning for the student’s transition to a career or postsecondary education with formal classes and in regular meetings with our staff.
But after running the Vocational and Transitional Program at Seaport for nearly a decade, our Vocational Director John Charow will tell you that taking the next step can also be difficult for our students. The young men that we serve in Grades 8-12 have nonverbal learning challenges and have not been successful in a traditional school setting. They experience tremendous personal and academic growth at Seaport, but transitioning to post-high school life can feel overwhelming for many.
A Bridge to Work
That’s why a new partnership with Bridges from School to Work is a welcome addition to our college and career preparation toolkit. Seaport’s transition program helps students identify career interests, write a compelling resume, prepare for interviews, match their skills to available jobs and apply for promising positions.
The Bridges program builds upon our transition program, working closely with the school’s staff to ensure student success. “Andrew Selby, our Bridges liaison, comes out to the school to directly connect with the students,” shares John. “Bridges has real world implications for our students. When they see it from another source, job preparedness, learning, our guys get engaged in new ways.”
Once enrolled in Bridges, our students work with its staff members, employer representatives, to further hone job skills. And, John explains, “Bridges, a Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission vendor, provides a streamlined application process.” Students with an IEP are able to apply to the program and almost immediately begin to strengthen their job-readiness skills.
Seaport students in the Bridges program not only learn and receive encouragement from the staff but from their peers who come from across the region. In addition to job skills training, students receive guidance and mentoring that increases confidence, builds character and enhances professionalism.
Real World Experience
States John, “The program doesn’t just help students create a resume and then tell them, ‘Go off and find a job.’” Work-readiness training gets students into “the field,” including providing some with the opportunity to shadow people working in their field of interest. “One Seaport student has taken part in job shadowing days in culinary and another in maintenance in the hotel industry,” John adds.
In fact, the Bridges’ most compelling feature is the direct access it provides our Seaport students to employers with whom it has long-standing relationships. “Companies know Bridges, and Bridges knows our students,” explains Seaport Director Alex Tsonas. Employers know the type of applicant they are getting when they interview a Seaport/Bridges job candidate.
“It makes all the difference in the kinds of jobs available to our students,” adds Alex. “They helped one of our guys get a job this summer with Boston Duck Tours.”
John adds that too often students with learning and social-emotional challenges end up in a succession of lower-paying positions. Not only does Bridges help our students land living-wage positions but it is committed to helping our graduates keep those jobs with follow-ups at regular intervals to address any problems that might arise.
Recognition for Two Seaport/Bridges Students
Seaport Academy has had nine students in the program to date, six initially and another three current participants. Another seven are in the Bridges pipeline. Based on the work they did at Seaport, two of our students were selected to participate in career workshops created by the human resources powerhouse Accenture Corporation. Only 156 students were chosen nationwide for this honor.
The Seaport Vocational and Transition Program has helped countless graduates find meaningful work. States Alex, “With Bridges, our students are set up for even greater success.”