Career fair aids Valley special education students

Gavin Boone, left, speaks with Vanessa Venios of the Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce at Thursday’s Work Foundations+ inaugural career fair in Sunbury. Boone is a student of Shikellamy School District.

SUNBURY — Hundreds of special education students from the Valley shook hands with prospective employers and discussed job opportunities Thursday during a one-of-a-kind career fair.

Work Foundations+, a secondary special education program of Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit, arranged for approximately 40 businesses to attend. Representatives interacted with 175 students, ages 14 to 21, from schools including Shikellamy, Shamokin, Line Mountain, Mifflinburg and Lewisburg.

Jessica Harry, special education supervisor, said the inaugural career fair ensured the students aren’t ignored as they look toward entering the workforce.

“They want to work. These are the kids who will get into a job and stay there 10, 15, 20 years,” Harry said. “The worst thing you can do is count them out.”

Gavin Boone aims to become a sports broadcaster. Nate Coffin envisions a career in computer technology. Warren Davis figures to work in his family’s custom home building business but is open to learning about other opportunities.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for these kids to come out here and see what kinds of jobs they like,” said Boone, 18, a Shikellamy student.

Boone himself hopes to attend either Bloomsburg University or Susquehanna University. A self-described die-hard sports fan, he hopes to work as a color commentator or play-by-play broadcaster.

“I can do both,” Boone said.

Coffin, 18, and Hannah Grenell, 17, of Northumberland, both Shikellamy students, walked table to table and interacted with employer representatives.

“Not yet,” Coffin said when asked if he found a job prospect. “I’m still going around.”

Brookside Homes, Nottingham Village, ManorCare, Knoebels Amusement Resort and Perkins Restaurant were among the employers at the fair.

Hannah Payne, a marketing employee with Brookside, said many of the students indicated interest in attending technical school with about three specifically interested in carpentry. Karla Procopio, outreach specialist with Work Foundations+, provided information on CSIU’s WATCH program and how it helps prepare students for careers in health care such as nursing.

Jon Anderson, Knoebels human relations director, brought 60 job applications.

“They’re all gone,” Anderson said about 90 minutes into the two-hour event.

Work Foundations+ staff members tailor vocational education specific to students.

“We help them learn where their interests are and help build on their skills,” Harry said.

The teens learn to transition into adulthood and are taught about independent living. They undergo education to refine academic standards like math and reading and spend up to 150 hours throughout the school year with Valley employers in on-site career training.

Learn more in the Special Education section of www.csiu.org.