University Celebrates 30-year Partnership with STRIVE Training Program for Youth with Disabilities

March 20, 2019

Two women stand outside of a baseball park

Brenda Tañón-Jackson, left (Photo by Zoe Gregoric)

Question:  What has lasted 30 years, supported 5,600 Boston Public School students with disabilities, and is the only partnership of its kind in the city?
Answer:  The STRIVE-Wentworth Training Program (WTP) at Wentworth Institute of Technology.

Brenda Tañón-Jackson of the Boston Public Schools calculates that more than 80 percent of the students who have participated in STRIVE's vocational training program at Wentworth have gone on to find competitive employment—real jobs. That’s nearly 5,000 who have found work due to the success of the Wentworth – BPS partnership.

STRIVE stands for Supported Training to Reach Independence through Vocational Experiences. The program provides transitional support and vocational exploration and training to high school students, aged 18-22, with a wide range of disabilities. But the focus is always on the individual student's abilities, said Tañón-Jackson. She said STRIVE is the only partnership of its kind in the city; no other college or university has one like it.

The program is city-wide, and all student participants are members of the community, representing 32 high schools. The vocational experience is a paid internship and students start with a recycling component. Many of the interns can be seen walking the Wentworth campus daily, collecting recyclable materials and emptying up to 600 blue bins from Wentworth offices. Most students move on to the facilities management component of the program, where they provide custodial services for the 610-residence hall and seasonal grounds crew services across the campus.

Interns can work up to 4-hour shifts on campus, earning the minimum wage of $12 an hour. After transitioning from high school at age 22, most of the students gain postsecondary employment opportunities in federal buildings, hotels, and various businesses across the city.

Wentworth hosted a luncheon in Watson Auditorium on April 2 to celebrate the program’s anniversary. State and city officials, including Boston Councilor-at-Large Annissa Essaibi George, Wentworth President Zorica Pantić and David Wahlstrom, vice president for business, joined STRIVE staff, BPS special education teachers, and past and present students in celebration.




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