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Neighbors of Kane County

Community-based placement program helping BHS students and local businesses

Batavia High School Transition Specialist Kimberly Garcia said she got the idea to create a sticker to publicly thank businesses for their help and participation in the BHS Community-Based Placement Program from fellow colleagues. To bring the sticker to life, she reached out to BHS Graphic Arts Teacher Kathleen Tieri Ton. Mrs. Tieri Ton tapped one of her advanced graphic arts students, BHS junior Julian Davis, for the job.

by Lucas Oswald, BPS101 Communications Department Intern

An increasing number of local businesses have started displaying small BHS logos in their storefront windows. The decal features two hands clasping in a firm handshake, surrounded by the golden paw print of a Batavia Bulldog.

Though a tiny sticker, the logo represents something huge, something with the power to have a profound impact on the community.

The black text surrounding the paw print reads, “Proud supporter of the BHS Community-Based Placement Program.”

“The students who benefit the most from the Community-Based Placement Program [CBPP] are the students who are juniors and seniors in our Vocational Transition Program [VTP],” said Kimberly Garcia, BHS transition specialist and founder of the CBPP. The VTP services students with intellectual disabilities, significant learning disabilities, or Autism.

“Students who have shown us that they have achieved independence with jobs within the building by their junior or senior year are ready to transition out into a job in the community one day a week,” said Mrs. Garcia.

Despite having only three students enrolled in the CBPP this year, Mrs. Garcia works closely with nearly ten local businesses, including Community Therapy Services in St. Charles, Trader Joe’s in Batavia, Ross Clothing in Geneva, the Batavia Public Library, Orange Theory Fitness in Geneva, Marklund Hyde Center in Geneva, and H.C. Storm Elementary School.

“We have a great pool of businesses in the area that are interested and willing to participate,” said Mrs. Garcia. “But, something that I take into account are students’ abilities and interests. I know that GNC in Batavia is interested in partnering with us, but I want to be sure that I connect this business with a student who has an interest in the health field and has the skills that will make them successful in that type of work environment.”

Ensuring that her students find themselves in positions that not only help them, but also the companies that they serve holds great importance to Mrs. Garcia.

“A partnership isn’t effective unless all parties are benefitting, [and] my goal is never to send [in] a student and have them do things that are mundane and unhelpful to the business,” she said.

Mrs. Garcia sits down with each of the companies personally to guarantee the achievement of this objective.

“When more accommodated job opportunities are available to individuals with disabilities, their dependency on government supports can be less and more of their time can be spent productively giving back to and interacting with their community,” she said.

Changing the perceptions and stereotypes that many have toward those with cognitive disabilities remains one of Mrs. Garcia’s top priorities. The first and most important condition that she has for all of her partner businesses is that they foster tolerance within the company walls.

“What I expect from businesses is that they are open and willing to have a student with disabilities, that they are going to create an environment of acceptance and tolerance and understanding, and that they are going to work to help all of their patrons who come into their business gain that same mindset,” said Mrs. Garcia.  

Community Therapy Services, one of the supporters of Batavia High School’s Community Placement Program, became a participant in 2014 and, at the time, was paired with two VTP students.

“As an organization that provides speech and occupational and physical therapy to children through adulthood, we’ve heard from parents first-hand there’s a strong need for vocational opportunities, and knew we wanted to be part of the solution,” said Brenda Borden, client support specialist at Community Therapy Services. “At our location, [VTP] students help prepare therapy materials for client sessions, keep our mail system organized, and help our practice run smoothly. We’ve loved getting to know them and all the wonderful staff members involved in this program. Every high school in the country needs a program like this, and a person with Mrs. Garcia’s heart and dedication to lead it. Her commitment to the students and her enthusiasm for the program is evident.”

As the fourth year of the program starts to wind down, Mrs. Garcia sees the program expanding to encompass more students and more businesses throughout the community. She remains passionate as she works to change the world—or at least Batavia—one business at a time.