By Sophie Trist
This semester, Covenant House is developing a community partnership with Opportunities Academy, a New Orleans school that trains and empowers students with intellectual disabilities between the ages of 18 and 22. Students at OA practice independent living skills and receive job training in fields as diverse as customer service, food and beverage handling, and retail. Just as at Covenant House, Opportunities Academy creates an individualized graduation plan for each student, a plan that caters to their needs and skill set. These young men and women prove that success comes in many forms. Students participate in community internships that give them real-world experiences that will help them hone their skills for jobs after graduation.
Jared and Jonathan currently work in the Covenant House clothing room, preparing them for jobs in the retail garment industry. They are always happy and unfailingly polite when they come to work. Jared, the chattier of the two, frequently talks about how much he loves both Opportunity Academy and Covenant House, and how excited he is for the rest of this year and for the adventures that await him after his graduation from OA in May 2020.
Whenever we receive clothing donations from our community, Jonathan and Jared help to sort through the donations and choose items that are age-appropriate for our youth. Jonathan enjoys organizing and labeling clothes. Jared’s favorite activity is organizing the hanger racks. Both young men enjoy sorting shoes and learning how to keep things organized.
Jared and Jonathan chose to work at Covenant House because they love to help people. Their interactions with staff and residents have been universally positive. According to Jonathan, on an average day, about five residents come into the clothing room looking for outfits. He and Jared walk through with the residents, helping them to find clothes in their size. Jonathan says that the residents are always thankful for their help, and Jared particularly enjoys when they fist-bump or give him a high-five. Their favorite staff members are Chai Reynolds, our Development Associate, and Augusta Elebash, our Grant Writer. These two ladies help them get set up each day and assign them their tasks. They also hold them accountable for their work; at the end of every shift, the young men email Ms. Chai and to give her a report, and she responds with feedback to help them improve. Jared says that Augusta often helps him stay focused on his work.
The skills Jonathan and Jared are honing in the clothing room will go far beyond this internship. Jared says that working at Covenant House has shown him the importance of punctuality, dressing professionally, and time management skills that will help him get a job after graduation. Jonathan appreciates what Covenant House has taught him about having a good work ethic and positive interactions with other people.
Outside of school and work, Jared is a sports fanatic. He loves to play basketball, soccer, and dodgeball, and when I interviewed him, he was very excited about an upcoming trip to the bowling alley. Jared loves to watch the news on WWL and the TV show Martin on the Black Entertainment Network. He also has his own YouTube channel, where he reviews various TV shows and video games. Jonathan loves to go to the mall, check out different restaurants around the city, and hang out with family and friends. His favorite movie is The Princess and the Frog. He has ten favorite TV shows, but since we can’t list them all here, he says his most favorite is Danny Phantom, an old Nickelodeon show he watches online. All of the Covenant House staff and residents agree that it has been extremely rewarding to work with these polite, joyful, fun-loving young men, and we are thankful for our partnership with Opportunities Academy!