On a Tuesday morning in July, Matt Raczkowski, 19, stood in the aisle at Michael’s in Westminster, restocking shelves.
In his hand he held Model Magic clay, looking to find where the matching item on the display was to replace it.
Each time he found the right match and hooked it on the metal arm or placed it on the shelf, he’d exclaim “I win” or thrust out his hand for a high five from job coach Ashley Jacobs.
Raczkowski meticulously moved up and down each aisle, pulling spare items out of storage and finding their place. At 9 a.m., the lights in Michael’s kicked on, signaling the store’s opening.
“It’s time,” he shouted excitedly.
For Raczkowski, working at Michael’s is his second summer job through the Summer Youth Work Experience through The Arc of Carroll County.
Starr Jolbitado, educational partnership coordinator with The Arc, said the program is for any student enrolled in high school starting at 10th grade or is in an education program after high school. It’s funded through the Division of Rehabilitation Services, a state agency under the Maryland State Department of Education.
Jolbitado said the program is for people with disabilities, from intellectual to developmental to physical — “it can be any type,” she said.
The Arc meets with the individuals for an intake meeting to talk about their skills, interests and experience to try to fit them in a position that works best for them, she said.
“The goal is paid employment,” she said, though she added that if a student doesn’t get hired after the summer program, “at least they have something to put on their resume.”
This year, there are 34 students involved in the six-week program during which students are paid a stipend. Graduation is Thursday, Aug. 9.
Jacobs, who worked with Raczkowski at Pizza Hut last year, and works with him some of the time at Michael’s this year, said he stocks shelves, hangs fall decorations and really likes to organize the candles.
“He’s very good at sorting things,” she said.
Raczkowski said he also likes to clean.
Jacobs said this type of program is great for someone like Raczkowski, because it’s an opportunity to show the community that he’s capable of working. He’s conquered every task he’s been given, she said.
“He’s so eager to work,” she added.
The Arc isn’t the only agency that takes part in the summer program. A total of seven nonprofit agencies in the county participate in the summer program to help students get job skills, including Target Community and Educational Services, Inc.
Target is “dedicated to enhancing the lives of children and adults with disabilities through quality, community-based residential, educational, vocational, recreational and family support services,” according to its website.
“We teach living skills,” Melissa Davis, coordinator of employment service at Target, said.
Davis said Target also participates in the summer program, and does a six-to-eight week internship for individuals ages 16 to 22. This year, she said, they are working with 10 students.
Each of the kids has different needs and different levels of support, she said.
“They’re all individuals. They’re all different,” she added.
This program allows students not only to go out and get job experience, she said, it allows them to figure out what fields they like and don’t like.
Joe Diventi, 21, of Eldersburg, is doing the summer program through Target for the second year in a row.
Diventi was a teacher assist last year, Davis said via email, and he helped with the support employment and also with teachers who were getting lesson plans together.
This year, he’s helping to put together a PowerPoint, helping with invitations for the bull roast and more, she said.
“I’m making different presentations,” Diventi said.
The presentation is about different devices that have adaptive technology available for people, like him, who have a disability.
“I’m basically doing presentation on all kinds of different technology modifications,” he said, later adding, “I like sharing and explaining different modifications, and advocating for kids with disabilities.”
Diventi attends Wright State University in Ohio, and said he wants to become a motivational speaker one day, using the skills he’s learning in his communications classes and the skills he’s learning through the summer employment program.
In the northern end of the county, 20-year-old Christina Duncan, of Hampstead, is working this summer to scoop and roll chocolate chip cake pops at Bertucco’s Bakery. This year is Duncan’s first time in the summer employment program through The Arc.
This summer, Duncan gets to do a number of tasks in the bakery, from rolling cake pops to crushing Oreos to folding boxes. One of her favorite jobs is getting to work with cookies.
“I get to decorate cookies,” she said.
And of course, she said, she likes to get to try the treats.
Hannah Shinsky, Duncan’s job coach, has known her since high school — they both attended Manchester Valley High School. They’ve been friends for a while, she added.
Shinsky said she’s more of a mentor to Duncan, than a job coach.
“She pretty much does everything on her own,” she said, adding that she works to advocate for Duncan.
Chrissy Gross, who works at the bakery primarily doing the mixing and baking, said Duncan has been a great addition this summer. She works hard, she’s cheerful, follows directions well and enjoys getting to do the work, Gross said.
“Everybody deserves an opportunity,” Gross said.