An exciting new job training opportunity is underway at AHRC New York City’s Betty Pendler Day Services. In partnership with the custom printing company, BCCO NYC, AHRC NYC’s Day Services’ Support Employment Program (SEMP,) will be teaching two cohorts of adults the skills necessary to print T-shirts, to adapt to a professional work environment, and potentially to receive an internship at BCCO NYC’s midtown Manhattan facility.
Creating a Successful Partnership
Alexander Patsalos is a student at the Melissa Riggio Higher Education Program at Hostos Community College. His family, including his brothers Yani and Dmitri, are the owners and operators of BCCO NYC.
“They were running a custom T-shirt business that would be a great place to get someone an internship,” said Matthew Weiler, Associate Director of AHRC NYC’s Day Services. “They’re still committed to their ultimate dream goal, a 50/50 environment with disabled and non-disabled people working side by side.”
As New York State moves away from sheltered workshops, Matthew said BCCO represented an “integrated, self-sustaining business model” that was “the ideal situation” for expanding employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
BCCO and ADS worked together to create a profile of what a person would need to learn or know to become a successful intern/employee in the workshop. Among the necessary attributes identified were: a physical dexterity to handle vinyl prints, an ability to operate a heat press, friendliness, and the ability “to perform rote mechanical tasks and be happy with that,” as Matthew described it.
Ultimately, successful internship opportunities were made available for James Pardo, a student of the Melissa Riggio Program at Kingsborough Community College and Pascual Santiago, who participates in AHRC NYC’s Day Habilitation Without Walls. program. Both enjoyed their experience at BCCO’s headquarters within the Ed Sullivan Theatre building. Pascual was even able to agree to a custom working schedule with the Patsalos family that is favorable to both parties.
“Both are employed a majority of the time, solely by the natural supports in the environment,” Matthew said.
Welcoming the Cohorts
The success of James and Pascual’s internship led to the creation of an eight-week training program, the purpose of which is to support people with disabilities as they develop their work skills as interns and potential BCCO NYC employees. On Monday, September 18, Lucas Hanson, Director of AHRC NYC’s SEMP program, and Peter Doherty, Employment Skills Coordinator, welcomed several of the cohort members to their new training environment, located at AHRC NYC’s New York League.
“You are the first people to go through this program,” Lucas said. “We want you to tell us what works for you and what doesn’t. This can’t work without your help, too.”
Peter stressed a professional work environment over the eight-week course, including punctuality, no food in the workshop, and adhering to any and all safety instructions. Peter then demonstrated the process of making a t-shirt: selecting a design and printing it; weeding the vinyl to remove unnecessary material, and pressing the vinyl design onto a t-shirt using a hot heating press set at 350 degrees for 15 seconds.
“Eventually, we will be doing this and a lot more!” Peter said.
Reaction from Cohort Members
“I joined this program because I want to get either a part-time or full-time job. It will give me more experience!”
– Michael Dennis
“I want to educate myself. This would be my first job and I’d like to help my family out. In life, people with and without disabilities need to keep learning and going forward.”
– Daniel Young