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Making Bracelets Helps Students String Together Job Skills

With Covid restrictions limiting community-based work opportunities for the high school’s SAILOR students this year, teacher Lauren Belles and occupational therapist Jessica VanValkenburg, along with the program's collaborative team, had to think outside of the box.

The jewelry box, that is.

The 18 to 21 year olds comprising the SAILOR B class for students with special needs have been busy creating, marketing and shipping bracelets since March, part of a remote internship with a Long Island-based company called The Spotlight Project.

The Spotlight Project offers individuals with disabilities a creative platform and diverse employment opportunities through the production and sale of hand-beaded bracelets. The company sells its bracelets on online and exclusively employs individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities as its creative “makers.”

“My favorite part about this internship is that it allows for students of all skill levels and abilities to participate in a meaningful way,” said Belles. “The students are exposed to all aspects of the process, from creation and production to advertising, inventory and distribution.”

The Spotlight Project provides all the materials needed for bracelet production, and the students do the rest: counting out the beads, measuring the elastic, and assembling the bracelets according to specific patterns. Belles, VanValkenburg and other members of the team created a number of adaptive tools and supports to allow the students to be even more independent during the creation process.

“We see our students really taking pride in making something that someone is going to cherish and wear on their wrists,” said Belles. “They are developing important career skills and feeling a true sense of accomplishment.”

The SAILOR students even designed a special “Sailor Spirit” bracelet to represent the high school and celebrate its 2021 graduates. The bracelet, featuring blue and white beads and an anchor charm, is currently on sale on The Spotlight Project's website.

“Our students have worked hard to advertise, package and distribute these unique bracelets, made especially for our school community,” said Belles.

SAILOR student Emma MacFadyen came up with a compelling sales pitch, claiming that “the bracelets can make your outfits look fancy.”

Classmate Damian Kennedy added, “I like making the bracelets for The Spotlight Project for my mom.

In addition to creating the bracelets, the students provide quality control, pack the completed products for shipping, and deliver the packages to the post office.

“This experience has allowed our students to see themselves as playing a meaningful role in the larger community,” said VanValkenburg, noting that the internship could possibly lead to employment opportunities with The Spotlight Project down the road.

Read more about The Spotlight Project here.

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