During their summer break, four Amherst students are honing their job skills through a program at the Cleveland Clinic.
If you ask Gabe Bullock, John Schlievert, Melissa Spataro, and Mitchell Neuhoff what they like most about working at the Cooper Foster Park Road health care center, be prepared for enthusiastic answers.
They’ll tell you all about making coffee, filling photocopiers, labeling envelopes, folding brochures, recycling, and scanning records.
“By the time their 10 weeks are over, everybody knows them and they know everybody,” said Dan Bullock, Gabe’s father and head of the Growing Abilities program at the Cleveland Clinic.
In the four years since its founding, Growing Abilities has helped develop job skills among students with Down syndrome and other developmental disabilities.
During the school year, they work with Steele High School and Lorain County JVS teachers to prepare for careers.
That effort continues at the clinic, where the kids draw paychecks for their help but also work on making eye contact, shaking hands, using indoor voices, learning appropriate touching, conflict resolution, manners, and building PowerPoint presentations.
Helping them through the summer are college students Alexandra Medve, Cassandra Morrissette, Shannon Drennan, Abby Turnwald, and Kristy Koller.
Medve, a 2015 Amherst Steele graduate, is studying occupational therapy at Cleveland State University. “I enjoy the atmosphere and being around these kids all summer,” she said.
Morrissette, who graduated from Firelands High in 2014 and is studying exercise science at the University of Mount Union, said working with Bullock, Spataro, Schlievert, and Neuhoff has been intensely rewarding: “As much as I’m teaching them, they’re also teaching me. I love how eager they kids are to come in here and do their jobs and find out what the next one is.”
“I’ve learned so much about they can do,” said Drennan, a recent Ohio State University graduate who studied occupational therapy. “I’ve seen them take realistic steps toward adult jobs instead of just dreaming about them.”
Turnwald is majoring in pre-med at the University of Toledo and Koller is studying exercise science at OSU.
It’s not all work — the Amherst students told us all about their love of singing, dinosaurs, the environment, OSU football, and professional wrestling star John Cena.
Dan Bullock said they are some of his favorite workers, though, zipping through assignments quickly and always with smiles.
The goal, he said, is to make the students as independent as possible.
There’s been success. Bullock said he was able to hire two of last year’s Growing Abilities students on as permanent workers.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times Pictured are Gabe Bullock, John Schlieffert, Cassandra Morrissette, Melissa Spataro, Alexandra Medve, and Shannon Drennan. (Mitchell Neuhoff, Abby Turnwald, and Kristy Koller were unavailable).