Students Rise and Shine to Lend a Hand

October 13, 2021

When Green Chimneys initiated COVID-19 mitigation efforts across the organization last spring, our Food Services team pivoted from feeding students in the Dining Hall to packaging individual meals and delivering them to classrooms and dorms. Over time, staff enlisted the help of a few students to assist with breakfast service, and what started as a temporary patch has become a sought-after campus job.

A group of 12 students in our residential treatment program volunteer to rise early and report to the Dining Hall by 7:30am to deliver food across the Brewster campus. Led by Vocational Teaching Assistant Stacey Grasso, students are taking pride in their efforts. The program helps some students earn community service hours, while others have pursued the opportunity out of interest or for bragging rights. They even compete to see who will show up to work first. And all are gaining autonomy and confidence. “It helps me get up in the morning…and helps me with job skills,” explains 10th grade student Ollie.

Doing good while building skills

Treating this volunteer opportunity as a job, students receive coaching and develop communication skills to articulate scheduling changes and overall concerns. Students learn to anticipate the needs of specific classes or students; they practice flexibility when plans change; and navigate social situations that may arise, such as an occasional complaint about the menu. Most of all, students are embracing responsibility. “They move thoughtfully and purposefully and take their role seriously,” explains Stacey. “I enjoy seeing our students take pride in a job well done.”

As complications of the global pandemic continue, it can be difficult to find the silver linings. At Green Chimneys, this program—and our students—are shining.

Life skills, job coaching, and vocational education take shape in a variety of ways at Green Chimneys. Based on the needs of each individual child, treatment plans are designed to support social-emotional growth and preparedness for adulthood. Opportunities like delivering breakfast on campus or interacting with customers at Boni-Bel Farm & Country Store are stepping-stones in job readiness. As students progress, many benefit from job placements in the community. To date, more than seven local businesses are partners in vocational education for Green Chimneys students. From busing at restaurants to helping with oil changes at a service station, students are gaining valuable real-world experience. Learn more about vocational education at Green Chimneys