Just off of Port Clinton road, the Stevenson Transition House blends in effortlessly with other homes on the street that hundreds of students pass by daily without a second thought. Most strangers are unaware that within its walls, students are working together to bake cookies, do laundry and even run their own business as a part of their curriculum.
For students in special education who have already met their graduation requirements, the Transition House works on developing its life and vocational skills for a better transition into adulthood. While some students are able to hold jobs in the community, the Transitions program’s Bright Lights Candle Company allows for an even greater range of students to have exposure to an employment environment.
“Not all of our students are able to go out for vocational job placements out in the community right away,” life skills teacher Robby Burroughs said. “But we wanted to provide opportunity here so that students of all levels of independence could have this experience.”
With the goal of developing self efficacy in mind, the company is completely student run. From the creation of the product to sales and marketing, the program’s students are involved in every step of the process.
“Our students simply shine when it comes to the business,” Genevieve Reznicek, manager of the candle company, described. “You can tell that they’re invested in what they do.”
According to a 2012 Bureau of Labor Statistics survey of disabled adults, “a lack of training and education was listed as the most common barrier to employment aside from the disabilities themselves.” Due to this gap, learning experiences and job training for students with disabilities are vital in giving students the foundation to find meaningful employment and achieve their full potential.
“If you’ve ever had a job where you create something with your hands, there’s something very satisfying about that,” life skills teacher Robby Burroughs said. “I feel like our students haven’t always had those experiences where they are able to have that feeling of accomplishment when they’re done.”
By developing abilities such as taking responsibility, management and working with others to ensure everything functions smoothly, students are learning critical vocational skills that can be applied to nearly every aspect of their lives and future careers.
“I feel like I see the students becoming much more at ease,” Burroughs said. “They’re really able to buy into their own independence and be more self determined.”
Based off of the success of the candle company, sweet-scented colorful soaps are being incorporated into the business as well. Aligning with the goals of the company to offer job experience for an expansive group of students, Reznicek believes the soaps will open up an opportunity to allow for more students to have an active role in the business.
Aside from the skills and experience that will go a long way in helping students get better acclimated to the workforce, being a part of the Bright Lights Candle Company has allowed for students to develop something invaluable for themselves: confidence.
“You can see the pride and joy when they’re able to represent themselves in the sales of their candles after,” Burroughs said. “They come out of their shell in way you really haven’t seen before.”