Students Gain Life Skills While Giving Back
Sheldon Armstrong has a variety of interests and is eager to discuss anything from sports to current events and, if he can’t make himself understood, often resorts to writing notes to get his point across. “Sheldon is a wonderful young man and he can talk for hours about what he’s seen on History Channel,” says Teacher Leader Amber Tjaden with a smile.
He’s one of a group of volunteers at Omaha’s Habitat for Humanity ReStore from the Omaha Public Schools Transition Program. Designed for students with developmental disabilities ranging from non-verbal to those who may never live on their own, the program aims to help them become active members of society by engaging them in a variety of situations, supporting them and their parents or guardians through some incredible times. The program serves students from 18 to 21 years of age.
During the morning, they focus on life skills, engaging in conversations or counting change, for example. There’s even a mock apartment where some prepare for independent living, practicing tasks like cleaning and meal preparation.
Every afternoon they go to work. Some positions are paid; others are voluntary. There are currently twenty organizations backing the program and “we’re always looking for more,” says Tjaden.
“There are skills they can pick up,” Tjaden adds. “They can all do some type of work.”
One of their jobs at Habitat ReStore is creating order and getting items ready for purchase by separating donated hardware into bags. “I love it,” announces Cassie Grush, who staples filled bags closed. “She’s a wonderful peer mentor,” adds Tjaden as Cassie shows another volunteer, Matt Dougherty, what to do next.
Habitat ReStore Manager Becca Thompson expresses her gratitude for what they’ve accomplished, saying, “one of the best parts of my job is the wonderful volunteers I get to meet. To the untrained eye it might not look organized, but it is and it’s all due to their hard work!”