Bridging the Gap

Like many teenagers, Heather Kozlowski was painfully shy. But unlike most teens, who can express their frustrations, the autistic 18-year-old was reduced to tears by even the simplest request. The disability which left her non-communicative and prone to emotional breakdowns limited her ability to function in society.

Ulster-Greene ARC’s “Bridging the Gap”, funded by United Way, has helped Heather become a reliable and valued employee at Ten Broeck Commons where she was recently hired as a full-time dietary aide.  “When she first came, Heather couldn’t even look at us,” her supervisor said.  “Now we enjoy her sense of humor, and she has learned to handle criticism constructively.  She has become part of the Ten Broeck family, and is focused on making a difference in the lives of our residents.”

Bridging the Gap helps participants determine what employment areas they are best suited to through short-term assignments to get a feeling for different jobs and work environments.  It provides life skills training – from handling problems with others, to taking public transportation – as well as academic classes during the school year and summer months.

“This program sees dramatic results,” explains John McHugh, CEO of Ulster-Greene ARC. “Our goal is to make our students independent, so we provide them with the skills and the mindset they will need as an employee.  Between school and the world of work, we offer them a bridge – a bridge that helps make it possible for them to go from here to there – wherever their dreams may take them.”