Kingsway’s Community Based Instruction Program (CBI) has an excellent roster of job sites, varied in business types and tasks. One thing that never changes: the welcoming, positive and supportive response our students receive each time they step into their workplace roles. Laurel Oaks Garden Center is as welcoming as its name reflects. At this time of year, Laurel Oaks is bursting with the colors and smells of autumn: colorful mums, pumpkins of every size, hay bales, scarecrows and, of course, Halloween décor—both fun and frightening.
On this day at Laurel Oaks, students Alexander, age 18, and Larsen, age 20, are busy moving pumpkins and filling in the bins with some hay. They respond right away to Terri Ellis, Kingsway job coach, when she gives them instructions. Marilyn, a new employee at the garden center, brings out some fresh hay. She has an upbeat way about her and clearly enjoys the group’s presence. “We really enjoy having them here,” says Marilyn. “They really work hard.”
Manager Jackie Pizzo echoes that sentiment. “They’re just a great bunch of kids and we love having them,” she says. “When they come in, we just show them what to do and they pick it up pretty quickly. We try not to do the tasks with them because we know they should work independently.”
Some of the tasks the students perform: repotting plants, watering, moving merchandise and cleaning shelves and displays. “It’s a nice place,” says Alexander of this jobsite, “I like it.”
Of course, the students are different each semester, but Jackie says the students from Kingsway are always hard-working, well-supervised and good-natured. “One day a few months ago, one of our employees tripped and fell while unloading a truck. One of the kids ran over to her right away and put her arm around her and asked if she was okay and comforted her. It was so sweet. The employee was so touched.”
Jackie also has a history with Kingsway beyond Laurel Oaks: her nephew attended the Elementary Program many years ago. “He’s thirty-two years old now and works at Wawa. He’s doing really well,” says Jackie. “We’re happy and proud to work with Kingsway’s kids.”