Building Futures at Specialized Learning
Holy Family Institute’s Specialized Learning (SL) sits nestled in a quiet Ross Township neighborhood, a licensed private school for elementary and secondary students. Enrollment is based on referral from the students’ home districts. Once enrolled, SL’s dedicated faculty and staff work with students to overcome their unique academic and behavioral challenges to set them up for a successful return to their home school district.
One of the programs designed to help students in grades 9–12 is the Workforce Development Program. Program coordinators Mr. Ralph Waller and Mr. Gary Zangaro work with students to explore career paths and gain important skills to succeed in post-secondary life. While enrollment in the program is voluntary, 100% of eligible students choose to participate.
The Workforce Development Program gives students first-hand experience, offering compensation for various tasks that contribute to the school’s staff, students, and neighbors. These may include shoveling snow for neighbors, serving snacks from the “Daily Grind” student-run café, or cleaning the cafeteria. Students also volunteer at Light of Life Rescue Mission and visit Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild to gain new skills each week.
In addition to this practical experience, students meet in small groups to learn more about the soft skills required to be a good employee, such as respect, dependability, goal setting, and more. Students also receive opportunities to interact with professionals from a variety of fields. They volunteer at charitable organizations, visit local fire departments, and hear from union workers about their profession.
According to Mr. Ron Zangaro, Education Director, “Ralph and Gary go above and beyond. They work with students to prepare for interviews, make sure they have the right clothing to wear, and even transport them when needed.”
The dedication of the program coordinators is mirrored throughout the school community. Teachers, behavior specialists, and other staff are all happy to contribute to this important piece of their students’ growth.