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School board honors PEF member for helping youth on path to employment – The Communicator

August 13, 2019

School board honors PEF member for helping youth on path to employment


New Heights

TEAMING UP — PEF Member Kevin Robison, center, joined by Holley Central School District Speech and Language Pathologist Anna LaForce, left, and Middle School/High School
Teacher Jason Maihofer, was awarded the school’s “Soaring to New Heights” award June 17.

The Holley Central School District honored PEF member Kevin Robison with its “Soaring to New Heights” award June 17 — a fitting name, since Robison’s work deals with helping youth who meet his agency’s eligibility requirements transition from school workplace training programs into jobsite training programs, and from there into the workforce, essentially helping the students “soar to new heights.”

A state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities’ (OPWDD) youth program supervisor, Robison is one of three staff in the Employment Training Program at Western NY DDSO. Working with school districts in the region is a part of his job, he said.

“This award is given monthly to deserving students and adults who go above and beyond expectations, and lend their skills and abilities to help others,” the school’s July 2019 newsletter stated. Robison received the award from teacher Jason Maihofer and speech and language pathologist Anna LaForce.

“I’ve been working with Holley for years,” Robison said. “They had a couple of challenging cases and I just followed up with Jason and Anna and nurtured them through it so we could keep it moving forward. I didn’t do anything exceptional, in my mind.”

Robison’s job at Holley, and many other school districts, involves overseeing and assisting with trainee programs. “The key part is that we’re trying to get young people who are OPWDD eligible into our program,” he said. “The school is already teaching work experience, they have to do that. Our role is we get the students into the (ETP) program. We pay minimum wage while they are doing their programs. The end game is that when school ends they will transition into the Employment Training Program as an intern.”

Robison monitors the school programs and advises when needed. “A lot of time the people we serve need support,” he said. “I work with care coordinators and the school as a team, so the young person is ready to transition.”

The OPWDD Employment Training Program offers eligible individuals “an opportunity to work in an internship that will lead to permanent employment in a community business,” the website states. “During the internship, wages will be paid [] through ETP while the individual learns the skills needed for the job. ETP participants also attend job readiness classes that present topics such as conflict resolution and how to dress for work. ETP services include increased job development and job coaching as well as assistance with other employability skills.”

Robison is no stranger to special needs youth and to giving them a strong voice. His oldest son Matthew has Duchenne muscular dystrophy and has needed someone to speak up for him. “We’ve had to do a lot of advocacy for him,” Robison said. “It’s so important to me to follow up. We owe the people we serve the respect of reaching back out.” The experience with his son helped him in his work with Holley, where reaching out and following up has served the youth well.

“My goal is to have them transition to anything but their couch,” Robison said. “For them to be successful and for them to achieve as much as they can.”

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