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Job-A-Palooza: Event matches businesses, students with disabilities


Katie Nunez works two jobs through The Arc of Palm Beach County’s job training program, one at Walgreens and the other at Otis Elevator Co.

Thursday afternoon at Palm Beach State College, the 32-year-old Lake Worth resident sat with Otis credit and collections analyst Michelle Swindell as she demonstrated stuffing envelopes to groups of young people with disabilities.

Otis, which develops, manufactures and markets elevators, escalators and moving walkways, was one of 22 local businesses that took part in The Arc of Palm Beach County’s first Job-A-Palooza event at the Palm Beach State College campus in Palm Beach Gardens.

RELATED: Young adults with disabilities get creative with pottery painting

A fast-paced job training event for students ages 14 to 21, Job-A-Palooza gives candidates the opportunity to learn about possible careers and meet potential employers.

It targets young people with developmental and other disabilities who want to work but do not know what is available to them.

“This event helps us advance our message of acceptance,” said Kimberly McCarten, The Arc of Palm Beach County CEO and president. “We want businesses to know that we have a job force that is trained, eager, and ready to work.”

Thursday’s event, which was the first of four that will be held on Palm Beach State College campuses — Boca Raton, Lake Worth and Loxahatchee are set to host events Aug. 25, Sept. 8 and Sept. 15, respectively — drew 65 students, 65 mentors and 22 businesses that want to hire people with disabilities.

RELATED: Arc of Palm Beach County offers gift wrapping at The Gardens Mall

Each business demonstrated a task such as cookie decorating, floral arranging and silverware rolling, and participants followed by completing the task themselves with help from their mentors. Businesses judged the participants on the quality or speed of their performance, depending on the task.

Participants were excited about the opportunity to test their skills and find employment.

“I’m here to learn how to find a job,” 18-year-old Daniel Northern said.

Businesses were happy to offer them that opportunity.

Otis already works with a handful of young people with disabilities, and they have been a major asset to the company, Swindell said.

They stuff envelopes, manage return mail and record data, among other tasks.

“They are so happy to come in to work every day,” Swindell said. “They are so efficient, and they really love their work.”

The Arc of Palm Beach County provides services, education and advocacy for children and adults with developmental disabilities and their families. It celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.

For information, visit www.arcpbc.org.



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