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AHS Grads Make Smiles Possible

Jared Baker embodies goal of AHS Work Study program

When Avon-Washington Township residents receive the November issue of Avon Magazine, they’ll be greeted by the smiling face of Avon graduate Jared Baker. Don’t let the genuine smile and kind demeanor of this young man with Down syndrome fool you. He’s a committed employee and hard worker, a person who is making a profoundly positive impact on everyone he meets.

Ray and Cheryl Baker are quick to credit the Work Study program at Avon High School when asked how their son developed such great work skills. “Jared’s Dad and I could not be bigger fans of the Vocational Training program at Avon High School or our entire Special Education program here in Avon for that matter,” says Cheryl. “Our family moved to Avon so Jared could be part of Avon’s program. Now both he and his sister are proud Avon graduates. We took a gamble by moving here but it has paid off in a big way.”

In a world that tends to underestimate the potential of people with physical, intellectual, and developmental disabilities, Avon Schools has a long track record of helping students with disabilities acquire the knowledge, skills, and attributes they need not only to survive in a competitive marketplace, but to thrive.

According to a 2020 US Bureau of Labor Statistics report, “The unemployment rate for persons with a disability, at 12.6 percent in 2020, increased by 5.3 percentage points from the previous year.” People with disabilities—people who are actively seeking employment—are much more likely to be unemployed than job seekers without a disability. In a world that tends to underestimate the potential of people with physical, intellectual, and developmental disabilities, Avon Schools has a long track record of helping students with disabilities acquire the knowledge, skills, and attributes they need not only to survive in a competitive marketplace, but to thrive.

“Vocational training has been a part of Avon High School’s Special Education program for almost two decades,” says Avon High School Transition Coordinator Kimberly Lobosky. The program began when the Life Skills teacher at the time started a student-run business at designed to help students learn job skills like purchasing, stocking, and selling snack items. The Breakfast Cart quickly became—and remains—a popular service at Avon High School for students and teachers alike. Lobosky says, “The Breakfast Cart became so successful in introducing students to the idea of work, that it was incorporated into a Pre-Vocational Education class for freshman and sophomore students pursuing a Certificate of Completion.”

The Avon High School staff have continued building the Work Study program through the hiring of job coaches and the expansion of what she refers to as “more individualized and enriching vocational opportunities as [students] move through the program.”

While freshmen and sophomores focus on mastering the skills needed to operate the Breakfast Cart, juniors and seniors get to experience internship opportunities both within the walls of Avon High School and offsite at a growing list of local businesses and organizations that includes Hendricks Regional Health YMCA, Avon Education Foundation, Mary Lee Maier Community Pantry, Monical’s Pizza, Sweet M’s Boutique, City Barbecue, Metro Diner, Rise'n Roll Bakery, and many more. 

“The skills students learn outside of the building are invaluable,” says Lobosky. “By exploring a student’s vocational interests and preferences, the school can work hand-in-hand with families and adult service providers to assist an individual in discovering a future path that will be long-lasting and meaningful. It is a key component in an individual’s transition to adulthood.”

The ultimate goal of the Work Study program is to help students leave Avon High School prepared to experience the pride of earning a respectable living and to enjoy relationships they build along the way. When asked what the most rewarding aspect of her work with this program, Lobosky says, “It is most rewarding for all involved when Work Study internships turn into job offers for the students.” This is a regular occurrence, and always a reason to celebrate. In fact, it is likely that many Avon-Washington Township residents have been waited on, attended to, or served by former Avon Work Study students employed at restaurants and retailers all around town.

The ultimate goal of the Work Study program is to help students leave Avon High School prepared to experience the pride of earning a respectable living and to enjoy relationships they build along the way.

Jared Baker is a prime example of how the team at Avon High School is preparing students with disabilities to succeed. “Not only did he get training in how to perform many different jobs in the program, he also learned time management and organizational skills and the importance of being a responsible and dependable employee,” notes Cheryl. “It gave Jared confidence to go out into the workforce and hold meaningful employment just like his peers.”

While he’s proud of seeing his accomplishments featured on the cover of Avon Magazine, Baker isn’t letting all the attention from friends and strangers go to his head. He’s too busy enjoying life, working hard, texting his girlfriend and friends, and thinking about his big plans for the future.

If you’d like to learn more about Special Education services in Avon Schools, please visit our website.