Best Buddies chapter pioneers Pre-Employement Training


Laura Anderson

Best buddies directors, ambassadors and special education teachers all worked together to create the Pre-Employment Training program for Best Buddies International.

Laura Anderson, News Editor

Out of over 2,000 school chapters nationwide, Algonquin was chosen by Best Buddies as the first school in the country to launch the new Pre-Employment Training program for Best Buddies International.

The new program will help transition students with intellectual and developmental disabilities into full-time paid employment.

Best Buddies is a volunteer mission that is made up of four pillars that work towards supporting diversity and inclusion. Algonquin has a chapter in the School Friendship pillar already and now is involved in the Integrated Employment pillar through the new program.

“It’s a way for our members who are buddies, individuals with intellectual [and developmental] disabilities, to become involved with Best Buddies on another level,” Algonquin Best Buddies co-adviser and special education teacher Caitlin Hynes said. “Right now they have the friendship portion, but then this gives them the opportunity to become involved in one of the other pillars [of Best Buddies].”

At the end of March, Best Buddies representatives Katie Brydon, Sheri Dean and Heidi Kalinowski came to visit the students and teachers involved with the program.

Currently the Pre-Employment Training program is in the pilot phase at Algonquin, but the organization is looking to launch it throughout Central Massachusetts first, then all of Massachusetts and eventually nationally.

“[The Pre-Employment Training Program] is something that we as an organization have looked to and wanted for at least 25 years, and being able to have a school that so openly and willingly explores this with us, invests in their students the way that Algonquin does, and provides that long term support investment is huge,” Director of National Programs for Best Buddies International Katie Brydon said.

This program will help promote Community Access Program (CAP) students’ work opportunities and help them build critical job skills. The goal is to increase the likelihood of long-term successful paid employment for these students.

“At this time it’s a collaboration of things we already do because the Community Access Program is about employment,” special education teacher Monique Cloutier said. “It’s about vocational [skills]. It’s about future transition, so they’re working on similar things and collaborating on pre-employment type skills.”

With the focus of the program being on the individual’s interests, skill sets and needs, the students are able to tailor their careers to themselves.

“The neat thing about this pre-employment training is that the entire purpose is to really individualize the job exploration path,” Brydon said.

Participants have gone into the community to community sites and investigated volunteer opportunities that are related to their interests. They are currently working at the sites and building their resumes.

“As students with [intellectual and developmental disabilities] become more involved in the community, it fosters an even bigger sense of inclusion,” Hynes said.

After a much anticipated launch of the program, both Algonquin and Best Buddies are thrilled about it.

“[Algonquin] has such a strong chapter, such an inclusive school environment, and we just knew that this would be the perfect place to launch our program,” Best Buddies Massachusetts Transition program manager Sheri Dean said.