Parish recognized for welcoming and providing jobs for special education students

by Sue Crawford

St. Michael’s Hamilton was presented with the Business, Agency and Community Award from the Council for Exceptional Children Chapter 289 at their annual dinner and “Yes I Can!” awards night.

The award recognizes a business, agency or community partner who promoted and provided for the enhancement, awareness and employment of individuals with exceptionalities to support or promote their full participation within the community.

parish award St Michael Jan and Maria
Jan Charters (right), St. Michael’s church secretary, was unable to attend the awards dinner, so CEC Chapter 289 executive member Maria Trotta made the presentation at a Sunday morning worship service in June. Photo: Sue Crawford

Just over five years ago, St. Michael’s was contacted by the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board’s Transitional Workplace Experience Program co-ordinator Marian Chisholm. She was looking for a community partner who would welcome special education students from the local high school on a weekly basis by providing jobs. Our church secretary Jan Charters, after consultation with Rector Sheila Van Zandwyk, agreed.

The students from Sherwood spend Thursday mornings helping with a variety of jobs. They have set up for the Thursday night euchre, created decorations for Pentecost and stamped designs on paper tablecloths for Maundy Thursday dinner. The best job of all, though, is setting up for the community soup lunch.

From the work chart Jan prepared, each student chooses a task. They are very fast at everything they do! Before we acquired our fancy new printer they even folded the bulletins. They enjoy their time, especially interacting with the parishioners. We have mutually benefited greatly from their presence.

Both the coordinator and teachers have nothing but praise for the church.

In support of the nomination they wrote:

“As a result of this placement my students have learned job specific skills as well as invaluable social skills. Most importantly they have developed a great sense of pride and accomplishment in their abilities as well as feeling connected to the community in which they live”, and …

“They interact with many church members and feel a great sense of accomplishment and pride when people tell them how much their work is appreciated. Even our ‘wheel chair bound’ students participate and feel a part of the ‘work group’. That is so important to those of us that support these students. Because of St. Michael’s, our students are expanding their social skills, their work skills and learning that they too are striving to reach their full potential.”

Since Jan was unable to attend the dinner, Anne Young, the soup lunch co-ordinator, accepted the award on her behalf.

On a Sunday in June, another presentation by Maria Trotta from CEC Chapter 289 was made enabling parishioners to honour Jan for this and all she does within the parish.

Sue Crawford is a member of St. Michael’s Hamilton.