GiGi Prep Career Development Program Launches in Annapolis
According to research, adults with Down syndrome have an unemployment rate that vastly exceeds the national average. Only 3% of adults with Down syndrome are employed full time, and only 57% have paid employment (1). At GiGi’s Playhouse Annapolis, we want to provide the kinds of job skills training that will help our participants successfully find and keep a job-and all the pride of accomplishment that goes along with it!
This fall GiGi’s Annapolis piloted the GiGi Prep Program, a 10-week session made up of 2-days per week instructional learning from 2-7:30pm. This is an application-based program with high expectations to motivate adults with Down syndrome. The purpose of this program is for adults with Down syndrome to gain skills in the following areas:
- One-on-one money math
- Communications – speaking & listening needed to understand employer expectations and customer interactions, and conversations with others in the community
- Team Building to interact with co-workers and peers
- Goal Setting for continuous self-improvement
- Career Development, including professional behavior, grooming, professional attitude, workplace expectations, and specific skills such as working with Point-of-Sale systems
- Personal wellness – nutrition, food preparation, and fitness during the program to improve strength, stamina, and conditioning
The program was led by volunteer Ginger Houston-Ludlam, a college instructor and a parent of an adult with Down syndrome, along with a dedicated group of volunteers who supported the curriculum delivery and who tailored lessons to the needs of each participant. “I was so pleased with our pilot session of GiGi Prep! I saw improvement in all sorts of areas-introducing themselves, confidence, teamwork, as well as specific job skills. I was so proud of all the students as they welcomed their friends and family, GiGi’s volunteers and board members to the “Grand Opening” of GiGi’s Butterfly Café, aka GiGi Prep graduation. And even the shyest of our participants stood up in front of the crowd, introduced themselves and shared their vision board. It was wonderful to be part of it!
Amanda, volunteer tutor reflected, “I love the GiGi Prep program and how it encompassed so many areas to prepare the participants for their future careers” and Chris, a member of the Annapolis Rotary shared, “What a wonderful experience working with Vickie with Money Math!! She was so much fun and I looked forward to my Tuesdays and our hour together.” As with all GiGi’s programming, there was no cost for this program, but families were asked for a commitment to the entire 10-week program so improvement can be tracked, and successes shared.
In addition to the lessons, one exciting component of the program was the introduction of the “GiGi’s Butterfly Café Experience,” a training workplace designed by volunteer Michelle, where participants could safely practice employment skills such as serving and interacting with customers and using an electronic point of sale system. Michelle is a member of the Annapolis Toastmasters and was excited to be working on speaking skills with our participants.
Some family feedback…
“Vickie is through her second week of GiGi Prep (or GiGi’s college Prep as we like to call it) and things are going well. As it seems clear that Vickie will be moving to a group home in early October, this wonderful program couldn’t come too soon. Vickie reports that she enjoys learning at GiGi Prep and is particularly interested in the lessons on responsibility. As her family members, we have seen this come to fruition as she is taking accountability for being sure we all understand the Prep program in terms of pick-up/drop off and meals and snacks. In the past emails would have been exchanged between me and group leaders about these things, but Vickie has become determined to act as an intermediary on her own. Additionally, she has enjoyed cooking. Another valuable skill as she and her housemates will be integral during meal prep in their home. Whereas before she expressed great nervousness as her Big Move approached, I do feel that the lessons and habits reinforced by GiGi Prep have given her more confidence to strike out on her own.”
“Robert had a great experience at GiGi prep. The ending speeches were great. I was able to see a lot of progress in the 10 weeks and they all enjoyed it!”
“It was phenomenal. Olivia really enjoyed it.”
The culminating activity of GiGi Prep included interviews with community members, presenting their vision boards and the opening of the “GiGi’s Butterfly Café Experience” to families, volunteers and Board members. It was a great day and parents were very proud to observe the growth of their loved ones. The participants were also very pleased to receive their certificates of accomplishment, one graduate gushed; “This is the best day of my life!”
We will make some revisions based on our pilot program experience and look forward to offering the program to new applicants. Interested to learn more, join the parent informational meeting scheduled on Thursday, December 16, 6:30pm. Enrollment for adults 18+ will open December 19 – January 9 and the session will run from February 1 – April 28. Volunteers to support the program also needed. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
Congratulations to the first graduating class of GiGi Prep Annapolis! We can’t wait to hear about your success!
A heart-felt thank you to the Phillips Charitable Foundation, Annapolis Rotary Club Foundation, and Northrup Grumman for their generous support to make this program a reality. Thank you for believing!
To apply for this program visit: https://gigisplayhouse.org/annapolis/gigi-u/
- Kumin, L. & Schoenbrodt, L. (2015). Employment in Adults with Down Syndrome in the United States: Results from a national Survey. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities.