Bridgeport Vocational Education Center is a unique learning environment for young adults with special needs ages 18 to 22 where they can develop and master the critical skills necessary for a successful transition from school to adult independence.
The program offers a structured curriculum that combines classroom instruction with real world application based on evidence that students learn best from this integrated approach. This one-of-a-kind program embeds core academics within community-based instruction and vocational education, which includes on-the-job training at several on-campus businesses, as well as at various community businesses.
The Bridgeport Vocational Education Center utilizes a school-wide framework based on the National Standards for Secondary Education and Transition. Instruction in core areas incorporates a balanced comprehensive program with a strategic selection of methodologies and curriculum. Explicit instruction is integrated with experiential learning providing meaningful instruction. Students at the Voc. Ed. Center have the opportunity to practice vocational skills within a variety of settings.
The first step in the Career Development course is to identify student’s personal strengths, interests and preferences, which are next linked to viable employment opportunities. Students then gain experience with the practical elements of a job search and the application process. Career Development culminates in learning about accessing community resources as well as job placement. All students meet with a Career Counselor, who works with students individually in addition to collaborating with the team in developing and implementing a career plan.
The Independent Living courses include the introduction, acquisition and practical application of essential concepts of self-advocacy, budgeting, independent skills for home and work, and recreation/ leisure activities. In addition to on-site instruction, the Center provides the opportunity for young adults to become familiar with and access community resources such as the Regional Center, Department of Rehabilitation, transportation, occupational centers and local community colleges. The goal is to provide young adults with the skills necessary to achieve a higher level of independence.
These courses provide the introduction and practical application of personal responsibilities, health, hygiene and sex education so that young adults are prepared for adult-themed social situations and expectations.
Vocational training provides hands-on learning experiences through on-campus businesses as well as work training at off-campus sites. The goal of these work experiences is to teach students basic job skills in addition to specialized skills, such as customer service, food preparation, money management, inventory and accounting.
Vocational training and on and off-campus businesses include:
- On-site clerical assistance
- Managing the campus’ Student Store
- Baking and other food preparation
- Lulu's Cafe
- Monthly retail events in conjunction with Silverlining Designer Resale Boutique & Student Training Center
- Campus newspaper
- Business marketing & advertising
- Retail design and crafting such as card-making and jewelry-making
- Multimedia studio
The Center provides students who are getting ready to graduate with the opportunity to do off-campus internships. These internships provide a realistic, meaningful work experience, with the hope that they may lead to gainful employment.
Students have the opportunity to apply for a number of interest-based jobs. Upon completion of the application, the Career Counselor interviews each student to match his or her strengths and interests with available positions. Once this process is completed, a team of 2 to 3 students and their job coach commute to their job site. At the end of 12 weeks, the students are able to apply at another site to broaden their experience.
Throughout the internship experience, students are continuously working on improving social skills, asserting self-advocacy and making a connection with their co-workers and supervisors. Goals may include learning the store manager’s name, greeting a fellow employee, learning a new task, asking for help, etc. Off-campus internships provide students with work training in the most realistic setting possible, enabling them to take these skills and apply them to a job once they leave the Bridgeport Vocational Education Center.
Currently, students are interning at the following sites:
- Dollar Tree
- Fresh and Easy
- NAPA Auto Parts
- Best Buy
- Finish Line
- Our local state senator’s office
The Career Counselor plays an integral role in helping the students plan as they progress though the program. Each student meets with the Career Counselor as needed during the school year to review progress towards his/her goals. The Career Counselor also initiates collaboration with various businesses and local agencies to assist students in making a smooth transition from school to the work world.
Part of the role of the Career Counselor is to conduct yearly interest and ability assessments for each student. Based on the results, the Career Counselor works with the student and their family to plan an appropriate career path.
The Career Counselor, in collaboration with the teachers, will assist the student with their personal portfolios. Each student is expected to compile a portfolio which will consist of a resume, job application, reference letters, awards and certificates. This portfolio will contain all the information to assist the student in their next step after graduation.
Social Skills and Team-Building Activities
The Bridgeport Vocational Education Center offers many opportunities to support social skills throughout the school day. Working side-by-side both on-campus and off-site, students practice appropriate social interactions to master and generalize concepts, which in turn improves their self-esteem.
The Super Skills’ “Steps to Success” are published each week in the campus newsletter. Families are able to practice and reinforce the same skills teachers are working on during the week. Teachers use a developmental approach and may utilize students who move at faster pace as role models or peer mentors to the other students.
At the Center, our students participate in team-building activities designed to develop and improve the following areas:
- Conflict resolution
- Peer and work relationships
- Stress management
The final outcome is for students to be able to practice and master these skills in the comfort of a school setting and then to generalize them at work and at home.
Director of Autism Schools
The Bridgeport Vocational Education Center recently acquired their own campus on the beautiful grounds of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Van Nuys. For our young adult students, it is exciting to be at a new campus that is distinct from the site of their high school. This new campus symbolizes that they are embarking on the next chapter of their lives.