New program helps older special needs students in postsecondary world

Deron School program aims to help older students achieve postsecondary goals

students-postsecondaryTen Deron School students between the ages of 18-21 who have learning disabilities or varying levels of autism are participating in a new program called PACE, which was established to meet the needs of older students who have fulfilled their high school graduation requirements but may need further education and experience to prepare for post-high school goals.

PACE is a new program where older Deron students participate in an educational job-shadowing effort. This group partnered with the New Jersey Devils. Before the start of a recent Devils home hockey game, the students were given the opportunity to observe a “behind the scenes” view of how employees make each event at the Prudential Center a success.

“When the students arrived they were enthusiastically greeted with a standing ovation by over 150 employees from the Devil’s Guest Relations Department,” said Deron School’s PACE instructor Patty Schmid, “Needless to say, we were touched by their support and it was also an exciting way to kick off this new program,” she added.

(Next page: PACE’s main objectives)

The new program, PACE, is an acronym for the following:
Provider agency linkages
Achievement of academic potential
Connection to community opportunities
Experience in appropriate work setting

Deron created the pilot program this year after realizing many of older students who met graduation requirements still appeared not ready for transition into “real life.”

The students began the evening with a “briefing” and were divided into three small groups to shadow employees and learn how each employee performs their job. The first stop was at the main entrance where the Deron students donned the official Prudential Center “red coat” and scanned event tickets for excited Devils fans learning to keep up the pace, as it got closer to puck time.

The next task for the students was greeting guests at the exclusive “Fire and Ice” lounge. They stamped patrons’ hands for revolving access to the private area. The final opportunity given to the students was ushering fans to their seats on the main level.

“Our students were paired with outstanding Prudential Center employees and had the chance to interact and ask questions about working for Guest Services. All of the employees the students came in contact with were friendly and encouraging as the students performed the various jobs,” said Schmid.

Given the inviting atmosphere, many of the participating students are currently completing applications and looking to see when the next job fair will be held.

“To add even more fun to the evening for our PACE program kids was the fact the game was an exciting one – the Devils won in overtime,” she added.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

Laura Ascione