Ramapo Staff Assistants Discover New Vocational Opportunities with Adaptive Design
When the COVID pandemic created barriers to meaningful employment and volunteer work for many of the staff assistants at Ramapo for Children’s Staff Assistant Experience (SAE) program, a few resourceful people decided to take things into their own hands – literally.
And so the thriving partnership between Ramapo and Adaptive Design was born.
Adaptive Design Hudson Valley (ADHV) is an organization that imagines and builds adaptive equipment out of trifold cardboard and other recyclable materials to provide greater accessibility and quality of life for the elderly, children, and adults with disabilities, and even pets. When Ramapo’s Interim Executive Director Jenn Zanger had the brainstorm for the organization to set up shop on Ramapo’s campus, a new world of hands-on vocational training opened up to the young adults in Ramapo’s SAE program.
“We knew we needed to create a more robust slate of vocational programs on campus when opportunities to participate with local businesses declined,” said Zanger. “Adaptive Design provides a unique work experience in its opportunity to scaffold up real work skills while also building the social-emotional competencies that come with understanding a client’s needs and generously creating adaptive equipment just for them.”
Staff assistants discovered creative strengths and tangible skills while designing and building an array of useful and essential equipment, such as wheelchair trays, foot stools, table stands, seat risers, iPad holders and cat scratchers, all out of cardboard. They learned the precision of careful measurement, cutting, edging, taping, and how to use a hot glue gun. “It’s a joy to watch these young adults fully engage and progress with this new set of skills,” said Greg Dette, ADHV Director, “and for many, this process has provided a vocational breakthrough.”
The fruitful collaboration has emerged as a twofold success as local schools and community organizations benefit from the newly designed products donated and delivered to their doors. Rhinebeck’s Chancellor Livingston School received seat wedges and footstools, Anderson Center for Autism welcomed table stands and seat risers, Ulster County SPCA was able to offer new cat owners a cat scratch box to take home with their adopted kitten, and nine older adults were thrilled to receive customized wheelchair trays that literally changed the way that they could participate in their daily life.
“This has truly been one of our most effective and rewarding partnerships,” said Zanger. “Perhaps most importantly, our young adults are empowered and gain confidence when knowing the work of their hands has played an integral role in helping others.”
Ramapo for Children’s Staff Assistant Experience (SAE) is a year-round, residential, transition-to-independence program for young adults with social, emotional or learning challenges. This immersion program engages participants in workshops, therapeutic support groups, clubs, classes and other activities, helping them develop social, vocational and life skills in preparation for next steps in college or employment.