To the editor:
Unfortunately, incidents that are negative in nature are what make the news, and too often good deeds go unnoticed. Such is the case with the commitment the City of Peabody and the staff of the McVann-O'Keefe Rink have made to a group of students in ACCESS (Accelerating Career, Community, and Educational Successes for Students with Intellectual Disabilities), the life-skills special education program of Peabody Veterans Memorial High School.
Each year since 1994, the McVann O'Keefe Rink staff has played an integral part in the education of our students.
Starting in October and ending in June, one of our students works at the rink two hours a day. Initially, the student goes through an interview process and is given an explanation of his/her job responsibilities. Each day when they arrive, they check in with a member of the rink staff, either Paul LoGiudice or John Bishop, and are given their work assignments for the day.
Paul and John are very patient and nurturing in their guidance and vocational instruction of our students. What is most impressive is the way all the rink staff interacts with our students, which has been instrumental in their development.
Not only are they learning vocational skills, but more importantly the development of their social skills is noticeably improved.
Many of the students have graduated and obtained competitive employment in our community. Our sincere gratitude goes to all the staff of the McVann-O'Keefe Rink for allowing our students to gain confidence, work skills and friendships during their employment at the rink.
We would be remiss if we did not also extend our thanks to the City of Peabody and Martha Holden and the staff of the Peabody Public Library for their generous support of the ACCESS program. They have given our students the opportunity to gain experience in the food service industry by allowing us to operate a coffee shop, the Bookworm Cafe, in the main branch of the library. For the past four years under the guidance of a job coach, many students have gained invaluable experience through their vocational training at the Bookworm Cafe.
After the students in the ACCESS program graduate from high school, they attend the post-high-school program. Each Thursday, the students meet at the library, allowing them to be accessible to the downtown community and public transportation.
The residents of Peabody should be very proud of the commitment of their city employees and their community to their citizens with disabilities. The teachers, paraprofessionals, job coaches and, most importantly, the students of the ACCESS program very much appreciate this commitment.
Special Education Teacher
For the staff of PVMHS ACCESS