Betsy Coffey-Chaudet helps Heritage High School students with special needs transition from high school to adult life. She and other transition teachers meet with students enrolled in Loudoun County’s special-education program once a week, to assist them in planning for their lives once they graduate.
"We help students who may have a visual impairment looking for colleges known for making accommodations, students with learning disabilities looking for schools or employment or both," Coffey-Chaudet said. "We help students make that jump from high school to adult life. We help them make a plan."
THE LOUDOUN COUNTY Public Schools’ Career and Transition Services Program recently established a job-development partnership with Lansdowne Conference Center and Resort.
Loudoun County Public Schools special-education supervisor Melissa Hartman said this partnership will provide students with special needs with opportunities to explore the travel and tourism industry.
The program will help students learn more about themselves in a work setting and expose them to different jobs, Hartman said.
Loudoun County’s transition consulting teacher, Mary Young, said a group of transition teachers came up with the idea to form a partnership with Lansdowne Conference Center and Resort. The transition teachers met with Lansdowne Resort’s human services director, Stacy Peterson.
"I thought this would be a great opportunity to develop community relationships and provide internships for those students with disabilities," Peterson said.
Transition teachers and students have already met with Peterson and other staff members during a series of three student tours.
Loudoun students toured the resort’s ballroom, lobbies, conference rooms, grounds and clubhouse facilities and met with chefs and personnel and banquet managers.
"We showed students what different departments do, from maintenance work to the laundry room to doing dishes," Peterson said. "Students got an idea of what different departments do and whether or not they could do them."
Peterson added the orientation sessions were a success.
ADDITIONALLY, PETERSON RECENTLY met with Coffey-Chaudet and Priscilla Horner of Heritage High School to discuss future partnership plans.
Peterson and Horner will work with a Heritage High School student, to assist him in a job-shadow program. The student will follow Lansdowne’s guest services and audio-visual department employees, to get a better idea of what their jobs entail.
"It could provide a wide variety of opportunities for our students. They will become aware of the variety of jobs available in an industry like Lansdowne (Conference Center and Resort)," Horner said. "This opportunity gives students a chance to make a better decision after high school"
Peterson and Coffey-Chaudet discussed creating an internship program, to begin in January.
"The ultimate goal would be to find some students that could gain summer employment with us when business picks up," Peterson said. "They will have approximately five months to learn the job, get to know the manager and understand how the resort runs."
"We would ultimately like to provide employment to students, if they can be trained to perform the jobs around the hotel."
The career and transition services program helps students in the special education program prepare for post-secondary school, junior college or four-year college or a full-time job.
"Our goal is to help students become productive citizens once they leave our schools," Hartman said. "We want them to contribute in some fashion. This program will help some students do that."