New program aims to help young adults with special needs

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU)- Educators in Luzerne County are bridging the independence gap among young people with special needs.

A new program is helping those young adults spread their wings.

It’s never easy getting that first job out of high school, but for some students in Luzerne County, this program may be the break they need to succeed.

Hiring managers at Genetti’s Hotel in Wilkes-Barre won’t have to look very long or hard the next time they are trying to fill an opening; at least that’s the hope.

A new partnership with the Luzerne Intermediate Unit, a resource for school districts, gives high school students with special needs a chance to get work experience in the hospitality industry.

“I usually go around and check the silverware and make sure it’s good,” said Kaylee Roberts, a student.

“I also do the vacuuming once in a while,” said Michael Wylie, a student.

The program, called “Pineapple Project,” is being funded by the State Department of Education. The fruit happens to be a symbol for hospitality.

It’s the newest initiative the intermediate unit offers as part of its transitional program. Educators work with students in local districts to determine their goals after high school.

A combination of academic instruction and community experience helps students achieve their dream jobs.

“We try to focus on all the different career clusters our students might be interested in,” said Kerry Freeman, supervisor of special education. “We noticed in our area, we have a lot of new hotels and banquet facilities that are in need of employees.”

This program helps bridge the gap between that need and available skilled employees.

“We’re always looking for actual good people to join our team in an array of department,s” said Scott Stefanowicz, director of sales for Genetti Hotel.

And students are thankful for this chance.

“It’s not just fun but you learn how to do stuff, so when you do get a job here, you already know how to do it,” said Diamond Mayo.

The unpaid opportunity has about 12 students right now, but the hope is to be able to accept more in the future. The program is for students ages 18 to 21.

The Luzerne Intermediate Unit also partnered with the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation to start the Pineapple Project.

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