Perrysburg Schools’ Story
Sara Stockwell (left) and Amy Gutkoski are all-too familiar with the challenges awaiting students with cognitive challenges when they enter the workforce. Facing staggering unemployment rates and low pay, many young people with autism end up living in extreme poverty. But these two educators want more for their students.
“Our students deserve the best chance at attaining meaningful post-school employment,” says Sara, Executive Director of Pupil Services at Perrysburg Schools. “We see it as our job to provide them with opportunities for learning necessary skills—along with chances to participate in authentic experiences—that allow them to grow and overcome barriers to employment.”
“By helping students develop skills and independence early on, we can help them break through barriers to employment.” —Sara Stockwell
“As educators, one of our most important goals is to prepare students to become fully participating members of their communities,” adds Amy, Assistant Director. “And for many students with disabilities, the life skills acquired in school are the only help they receive for transitioning from students to independent and productive adults.”
In the Perrysburg Schools system, young people with cognitive challenges get help learning routines, managing their time, communicating effectively, and gaining independence. But, oftentimes, support systems that exist in school are unavailable in the business world.
“In my previous roles as job coach and developer, I witnessed adults with disabilities struggling to maintain meaningful employment,” adds Sara. “By helping students develop skills and independence early on, we can help them break through barriers to employment.”
That’s why Perrysburg Schools chose to become the first education system to incorporate the Venture Bound program in 2016. Early on, Sara and Amy met with the Venture Bound team to ask questions and determine whether Venture Bound would address their students’ needs. They found a program in its pilot stage, with a standards-based curriculum, real-world work experiences, and employer-support resources—all components that Perrysburg Schools considers important in a school-to-work transition program.
“As educators, one of our most important goals is to prepare students to become fully participating members of their communities.” —Amy Gutkoski
“We know that the most successful transition programs are those that are comprehensive,” explains Sara. “The skills that Venture Bound addresses through its curriculum—skills such as communication, time management, independence, and self determination—increase the likelihood of a student’s successful transition to the workforce.”
As for advising other educators who might be considering a school-to-work transition program, Sara suggests meeting with the Venture Bound team to learn more. “Everyone associated with Venture Bound is passionate and dedicated, and we appreciate their collaborative nature.”