Francesca lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and works at the William Rowan Elementary School as a teacher's assistant. All her life, she has been interested in a career helping children. She began working in the school system as an AmeriCorps member, did very well, and was offered a paid job.
Francesca says that as a little girl, she taught herself sign language to overcome her difficulties talking to people. She also grew up with an aunt with multiple sclerosis who didn't let her disability discourage her. These experiences and some volunteer work with children during high school helped Francesca decide to have a career working with children in a school setting. She wanted to work with all children, but thought she would be particularly patient and understanding when working with children with disabilities.
After high school, Francesca had trouble finding the kind of job she wanted. Her first job developer steered her toward jobs she could be placed in quickly, rather than focusing on working with children in schools.
With support and guidance from her case manager and her grandmother, Francesca was referred to a new job developer, Shana Goldberg, at Community Integrated Services. With Shana's encouragement, Francesca decided to get more education. She enrolled in the Academy of Adult Learning, a college-level program at Temple University for adults with developmental disabilities. She took classes there in life skills, child development, CPR, and first aid.
The Academy of Adult Learning offers students the opportunity to try out work experiences, and Shana was trying to find Francesca work experience with children. Although Francesca clearly had retained the skills she had learned at school, if she wanted to work in a school system, she would need experience in a school setting.
Shana eventually found out that AmeriCorps, a national service program, offers opportunities for people to work in schools through programs such as EducationWorks, a local after-school program for urban children. Francesca liked the idea of this work experience. With support from Shana, she filled out the paperwork to become an AmeriCorps member, wrote the required essay about what this work would mean to her, and interviewed for a position working in the after-school program.
Francesca got the position, tried it out for a semester and did so well that she stayed with the school for the rest of the year. She worked every day from 2:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., helping kids with personal-care tasks, such as keeping track of their things, using the restroom, and having snacks. She also tutored the children on their homework, helping them focus if they got distracted.
When the school year was over, Francesca was hired as a program staff member for the next year. Francesca now earns $7.50/hour and works at the school every day from 2:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., except when the school has a half-day; then, she works from 11:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Francesca gained a great deal from this opportunity. In a video about her work experience, she said that she learned to work with others on her team toward reaching decisions and to appreciate other people's feedback on her work. She is happy with her job, and enjoys helping children do after-school activities and solve problems.
- Francesca was persistent about her passion for working with children, and focused on opportunities in that field. She found a job developer who helped her take important steps toward becoming employed in the kind of program she liked.
- National service programs offer opportunities to gain work experience that can lead to a job. Francesca gained the necessary experience working in a school setting to meet her goal of being employed in a school.
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