Hasan Hanif participates in the WorkAbility program in the Rowland School District.

Rica Tianbeng carefully sorted the bright, shiny ribbons. First by color. Then by pattern. And finally by length.

Any loose ends were carefully taped around the spools.

The 20-year-old from West Covina was learning all about the workplace through her experiences at Michaels Arts and Crafts store in Rowland Heights.

Tianbeng is only one of more than 100 students in the WorkAbility program at Rowland Unified. The government program funds work experiences for special education students 16 to 22 years old.

Administered by the California Department of Education, the program promotes career awareness while students complete their secondary education.

The transition program teaches students job

Armando Martinez is a special education student in the Rowland Unified School District. He learns work skills in area stores a couple of hours a day.
skills and interview techniques. These can help the young adults find a job afterward.

"WorkAbility pays for 50 hours of work," explained Jan Cecola, Rowland's coordinator. "The students usually work a couple hours every day, then come back to the school for classes."

The district has students in many local businesses including Ayres Hotel, Best Buy, Costco, Dollar Tree, Foot Locker and WalMart.

"The students all want to work at AMC Theaters, Petco and the Game Stop," Cecola reported with a smile.

Participants perform many different jobs, ranging from cashier assistants and dishwashers to office assistants and stock clerks.

"I like working at Michaels, they're nice," Tianbeng remarked. "I'm saving

my money to buy Christmas presents."

The students are under the constant supervision of education assistants. Cheranny Lindsay watched the five students in her care.

Lindsay says the work builds the self-confidence of the special ed students.

"They feel better about themselves and their abilities," the 29-year-old Rowland resident said.

Lindsay had worked as a guidance assistant at Rincon Intermediate School in West Covina. She recently received her nursing license.

"But I love working with these students. And the employers love them, too," Lindsay said.

Cecola said local businesses also benefit from the program. The employers get workers whose skills and interests are matched to their needs.

"Wages and Worker's Compensation are paid during the training," Cecola said.

WorkAbility allows the business community to collaborate with the school district to develop a trained work force, she said.

richard.irwin@sgvn.com

(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2801