BREVARD COUNTY — A partnership between the Brevard Achievement Center, Codecraft Works and Vocational Rehabilitation has yielded an opportunity for teenagers with disabilities a chance to be successful in the field of IT upon graduation.
A second part to the program involved certifying participants in Google Analytics and matching them with local businesses to provide analysis of web data, all of which students earned a paid work experience for what they learned in class.
On July 29, students had the opportunity to present their data to businesses and family in an interactive showcase.
“All seven students at the end of this eight-week course passed their Google Certification exam, four of them with perfect scores,” said Keri Goff, community relations manager for BAC. “They started with Google Basic training, then Google Advanced training, and then they did the Google Power User certification exam. College students don’t even ace that test.”
With this Google Power User certification, the participating students could go to any IT company and ask for a job, Mrs. Goff explained.
Applications will soon open this month for adults with learning disabilities to apply for the Fibonacci program at Codecraft Words. Meanwhile, those students who passed the inaugural eight-week course are now eligible to apply for a more advanced course with a focus on website building tools.
The idea for the program came about from Chris Price, employment services coordinator for BAC, who had approached the achievement center’s CEO Amar Patel, according to Mrs. Goff.
“They were able to put this program together fairly quickly from conception, thought, to actually enacting it,” Mrs. Goff explained. “We designed the program so that we could use the state money from Vocational Rehabilitation to pay for portions of it, and then we’re using some of our grant funds to pay the rest. Codecraft Works gave us an amazing rate, and they’re footing part of that bill themselves.”
Through the on-the-job training segment, five companies partnered with students and gave them access to the back-end of their websites. Students were able to pull Google analytics reports for statistics to see once visitors reached a business’s homepage, what page did they visit next, and what buttons were visitors clicking on.
Students also got to showcase websites they had designed from scratch using code. One student had even made an interactive Magic 8-Ball that when a question was typed on the website, an answer would appear.
“What was hoped for but not expected happened as well, which was the social aspect,” Mrs. Goff said. “We’re talking about high school students who are generally very shy, very closed... they don’t have good social interactions.
“At the end of the day, they were very proud of their work, they were talking to complete strangers about what they had done,” she continued. “They were out of their shells. It was a great experience overall to see not just the academic growth but the social growth as well.”
The Brevard Achievement Center was founded in 1968 and is one of Brevard County’s largest employers for people with disabilities in the county. It operates in contract sites across Florida, Virginia, North Carolina and Puerto Rico through partnerships with the AbilityOne Program.
The center also offers classes from social skills to computer lessons, and an art program in which artists earn money when their work is sold.
“The areas that we are critically underfunded is actually transportation,” Mrs. Goff said. “The No. 1 roadblock for an individual with disabilities to not only get a job, but to maintain it, is transportation. The Brevard Achievement Center provides transportation to individuals where and when we can, work around their schedules, and we have full-time bus drivers.”
Another department that is underfunded, according to Mrs. Goff, is BAC’s supported living program. This program aids individuals with significant disabilities that otherwise wouldn’t be able to live completely independent, but want to, by providing coaches to help take them to the grocery store and to make sure they’re taking their medications.
The Brevard Achievement Center is looking for individuals interested in supporting its programs. It is also accepting sponsorships for its Community Awards in October.
For more information, call (321) 632-8610 or visit www.bacbrevard.com.