Just because a child can’t cope well in a traditional classroom setting doesn’t mean they are incapable of learning. That’s why alternative schools like Applewood Academy for Progressive Learning (AAPL) exist. And it’s also why AAPL has created a job readiness program – to ensure that each and every student has the supports necessary to succeed.
AAPL students have the opportunity to develop valuable workplace skills through the school’s job readiness program, called “Look Who Can”. “I originally created the job readiness program around one student, Dave, who was unable to participate in any classroom environment”, says Jay Bly, coordinator of the program and a parent-therapist with a residential therapy program for teenage boys. “He was physically and verbally aggressive and would self-harm”.
Bly says the teen’s negative behaviour occurred daily and meant that he was unable to participate in any academic learning or even recreational activities with peers. “I began working with him and started to build a positive relationship with him”, Bly says. “The program allowed him to learn basic building and maintenance skills. We started cutting grass, raking, gardening, painting, clearing snow and doing simple renovation work”.
Bly was thrilled to see the program having a positive effect on Dave. “His self-esteem began to grow and he felt he had purpose, because he was receiving positive feedback and felt pride in his work”.
Bly chose the name “Look Who Can” for the job readiness program to show that children in care are capable of succeeding when given the supports they need. And succeed they have. Teens in the program now take care of properties in the community, participate in building projects, do home renovation work, build furniture, paint, refinish antiques and plant gardens. “While we work we have conversations regarding a variety of subjects and they begin to learn without even knowing they are gaining knowledge”, Bly says.
Dave has continued to participate in the program and, as a result, has begun to build up his academic performance along with his job skills. He has moved into Bly’s residential program, participates in math and is now at a grade 6 reading level. “It has only taken him three years to come this far,” says Bly. “He now demonstrates independent working skills, organizational skills and problem-solving abilities.”
Bly believes the job readiness program is a great fit for students who have difficulty in a regular classroom environment. “The program provides these kids with skills that enhance their lives. As this happens, they begin to see that they are capable of achieving this and more. They become more open to trying”.
AAPL’s job readiness program also includes a culinary class and opportunities for hands-on meal preparation.
AAPL students also explore core subject areas, life skills and independent study. Read about a day in the life of an Applewood student here.