PIQUA — In honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, Edison State Community College and Capabilities, Inc. are shedding light on the unique partnership that continues to provide internship opportunities and career exploration for individuals with developmental disabilities.
It is through this partnership that Edison State has had the opportunity to host interns four days a week, who not only contribute to the operations of the College, but are also given the opportunity to learn, develop, and enhance valuable job skills in a real-world setting.
“We started this partnership a little over two years ago in September of 2015 with our first intern Tony Muhlenkamp([of Russia, Ohio). Not too long after Valerie Leanza (of Troy) joined us,” Bonnie Riell, Medicaid leader at Capabilities, Inc., said.
“We have since grown from two interns and one consultant to eleven interns and two consultants.”
Because of the diverse career opportunities available, Capabilities, Inc. has found Edison State to be an ideal workplace for internship candidates to experience several career fields and hone in on areas that fit their desires.
“We’re doing this a little bit differently as we’ve grown. We now work with more departments on campus including the library, IT, maintenance, AVI, who handles food and banquet preparation, and student services,” Riell said.
As the Capabilities interns gain hands-on job experience, they have already built strong relationships with colleagues and students that they get to see every day at Edison State. Some of these relationships lend themselves to becoming the source of professional references when their internships are over and they are looking for jobs in the larger community.
“The departments that the interns have been involved with on campus have helped them to develop excellent working skills. Not only that, we also like putting them in a college setting for the social aspect,” Riell said.
“They’re interacting with students, faculty, and staff regularly throughout the day, which has helped them to develop social skills. Faculty and staff have embraced the interns, even Edison State students have embraced the interns, which has been so awesome to see happen.”
Because of the opportunity to learn hands-on work skills and the exposure to the college community, many of those who work with Capabilities, Inc. and Edison State have since experienced life-changing events.
“As a direct result of this partnership, two individuals have continued to be successful community employed for over 30 years combined, three have recently gained employment, two are in the process of Job Development, two have moved from their family homes into independent apartments, one is taking driver training classes, and two are currently enrolled as students at Edison State Community College,” Riell explained.
“The interns that Capabilities has provided have become woven into the fabric of our college community,” Scott Burnam, assistant provost at Edison State, said. “They are recognized not only by faculty and staff, but by students as well, all of whom ensure they feel supported and appreciated.
“While the contributions of the work they perform is significant to us, it really pales in comparison to the gift their presence on campus has become. Though it is an indication of success in the program, when one of them gets placed with a job in the broader community, it’s always a bittersweet piece of news for us.”
Capabilities, Inc. strives to provide people with differing abilities the maximum support needed to successfully achieve and sustain their goals. Headquartered in St. Marys, Ohio, the organization holds accreditation from CARF. In addition to providing community integration services, Capabilities, Inc. also provides help in the areas of community employment services, driving services, career exploration services, professional training, and technology services.