Focus Beyond Transition Services

Each year, thousands of dedicated individuals volunteer their time and energy to deliver Junior Achievement programs to students throughout our three-state region. One of the hallmarks of a Junior Achievement volunteer is the “kit” they use to prepare for their lesson. Each kit contains all the curriculum materials needed for that lesson – teaching guides, handouts, flash cards, game pieces, toys, stickers, and a myriad of other fun things that keep students engaged.

After all lessons have been delivered, JA encourages volunteers to return unused kit materials for recycling. With more than 10,000 volunteers using kits each year, the quantity of recyclable materials is significant. Someone needs to sort through the materials to determine what can be reused and what must be trashed. For many years, that “someone” was JA staff. Thanks to a unique partnership with Focus Beyond Transition Services (FBTS), a program through the St. Paul Public Schools that promotes life-long learning for young adults with disabilities, FBTS students are now helping with these tasks while gaining important job skills.

Students participating in FBTS receive individualized programming as part of their Independent Education Plan (IEP). They work several hours each week on the job site learning skills that will prepare them to one day work independently, such as on-the-job communication, how to take direction from a supervisor, stamina, attention to detail, and time management.

Four times a week, the FBTS students and their job coach visit Junior Achievement to prep kits for rebuild. They sort, organize, and collate materials at a long table covered in papers of all shapes, sizes, and colors. Initially, job coach Anessa Sisneros helped them with the sorting process. Now, they’re able to work on their own. “Every day I see them doing more,” said Anessa. “Each of them has come up with their own way of working.” Christiana, one of the FBTS students, likes working at Junior Achievement “because we have our own room to work in.” Another student likes the job tasks because she can do them all by herself.

“The partnership is a win-win for both Junior Achievement and Focus Beyond Transition Services,” said Shannon Schubert, FBTS Work Coordinator. “The volunteer activities that JA has our students completing provide real life on-the-job experience to students in a supported environment.” “It’s clear when you see the FBTS students in action that they have a sense of pride and accomplishment in what they’re doing,” said Lissa Messner, Junior Achievement Urban Program Manager. “We’re fortunate to have this relationship with the St. Paul Public Schools. Not only are their students gaining valuable job skills, but they’re also helping us recycle our kits, which keeps our costs down and minimizes waste. It’s definitely a win-win!”