One of the most durable misconceptions about Challenge is that it is strictly a sheltered workshop for people with disabilities. While we have operated a number of in-house businesses over our 50-year history, over 90 percent of our program participants are placed in community settings at more than 100 employers in the region.
The opportunity to try out a range of job tasks and environments is what brought Rachel W. and her family to Challenge. Rachel is a personable, humorous young woman who enjoys socializing with her friends and participating in Special Olympics bowling. She knew she wanted to work in a caring profession in some capacity, but recognized that she needed more guidance and experience before making the leap into the workforce.
She enrolled in Pathway to Employment (PTE), a program that helps job seekers under the auspices of the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) to achieve greater independence and transition to competitive employment. The program includes training in a variety of job-readiness topics including transportation, stress management, and workplace communication. Most crucially, it facilitates paid work trials, internships, and volunteer positions that are focused on the individual’s areas of strength and interest while addressing remaining barriers to success.
During her time in the program, Rachel worked in production and packaging at the Food Hub and as a dining attendant at Ithaca College. She also started volunteering at Cayuga Ridge, a skilled nursing facility on West Hill, where she developed a special affinity for working with seniors.
Since graduating from PTE, Rachel has continued her volunteer work at Cayuga Ridge and has gained additional experience in elder care through a work trial at Longview. She is now pursuing a permanent job placement in this field.
“They really get her out in the community,” says Rachel’s mother, Lori. “It’s not just sitting in a room.” “Because who wants to do that? It’s boring!” exclaims Rachel. “What I like about Challenge is being around other people.”