Yarmouth business helps special ed students gain real-world experience

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YARMOUTH — A local small business is working with Spurwink‘s Glickman Academy to give special education students work experience.

Amy Handy, owner of Clay Play at 756 U.S. Route 1, has been partnering with the school’s vocational services program for three years and this summer offered one student paid work experience.

Usually the students at Glickman Academy, at 587 Ocean Ave. in Portland, do unpaid volunteer work with local businesses during the school year.

Garry Kenyon, vocational coordinator at Glickman Academy, said the school appreciates Handy’s involvement.

“It takes a special person to open up their business and give an opportunity like this,” he said.

Handy has owned the paint-your-own pottery studio for nine years, and said she has enjoyed having Glickman students work with her.

“It’s nice for me to feel like I’m doing community service,” she said. “It’s nice to know my business can help give back.”

This summer, Handy had sophomore Maia MacDonnell, of South Berwick, working with her.

MacDonnell attends Glickman Academy, but is still technically enrolled at her local high school. Kenyon said high schools will send special education students to a Spurwink school if everyone involved finds it to be “a better fit.”

He said Glickman, along with Spurwink’s five other schools, has additional services to help students.

“We’re a special-purpose high school,” he said. “The vocational services are a part of that.”

Kenyon said students start by holding jobs at the school and then transition to working in the community. Various Portland companies and organizations hire Glickman students, but fewer do in smaller towns like Yarmouth. In addition to Clay Play, Kenyon said Estabrook’s garden and nursery also works with the school, but doesn’t currently have any students.

Handy said she thinks more small businesses should take part in programs like this.

“I think especially in a place like Maine there are smaller businesses and they’re the life blood of Maine, so it’s important for them to give back,” she said.

Handy said although her business is about art, working there requires helping and talking with a lot of customers. She said MacDonnell did a great job.

“It’s such a customer-service job and Maia … stepped right in and seemed really comfortable with it,” Handy said.

Kenyon said he makes sure each student will be a good fit for a company before they start work.

“I was very confident that Maia would do a fantastic job,” he  said. “We’re very conscious of a student’s skills.”

MacDonnell said she enjoys interacting with others and would like a job in the future where she could do this.

“I like working with people,” she said. “I want to be a neurologist or lawyer.”

MacDonnell said working at Clay Play gave her many skills, including “learning to interact or problem solve with people, or compromise.” This school year she’s doing volunteer work at Black Tie Bistro in Portland to continue building customer-service skills.

“All of these experiences, whether paid or unpaid, are really valuable for Maia to put on her resume when she goes to look for a job on her own,” Kenyon said.

He said the experiences also give students skills in job hunting, because they all have to interview for the jobs and volunteer positions they get.

Kenyon said the school appreciates the businesses who offer work to the students, especially because there can be fear about agreeing to a partnership “if they haven’t worked with people of varying abilities.”

He said, however, that he thinks companies get as much out of the experience as students do.

“It’s really a win-win,” Kenyon said. “Students are getting a valuable experience they can only get in a real world setting, and the businesses are getting help. The students are doing real work.”

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Maia MacDonnell, a sophomore at Spurwink’s Glickman Academy in Portland, spent her summer gaining work experience at Clay Play in Yarmouth.

Amy Handy, left, owner of Clay Play in Yarmouth, has partnered with Glickman Academy’s vocational services, coordinated by Garry Kenyon, right, so students like Maia MacDonnell, center, can gain work experience.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.
  • David Craig

    Kudos to Amy Handy / Clay Play and also to Estabrook’s for providing these opportunities for Glickman Academy students.