by Mary Helen Darah

Trevion Sanford and Jonathon Goodloe took part in The Ability Center’s Next Steps Summer Program this year. The Ability Center is a nonprofit Center for Independent Living (CIL) serving northwest Ohio that believes in and supports equitable and inclusive communities for people living with disabilities.
The summer experience is a component of The Ability Center’s Life Skills Program that prepares young adults for life after high school. Both students participated in the program that provides students the chance to stay on the campus of the University of Toledo for five weeks, where they learn to tackle everyday tasks such as doing laundry, cooking and cleaning, in a dorm environment. Sanford and Goodloe, along with fellow participants, were then provided employment opportunities at local businesses and organizations. It is through these interactions with business professionals that they build their job skills and confidence.
Sanford, who was placed at Sylvania Area Family Services (SAFS), assisted camp directors with various activities including reading, games and outdoor projects during the summer camp held for children in first through sixth grade. He also assisted the organization of their food pantry by stocking, sorting, organizing, and dating products. “Trey (Sanford) was a vital part of our team,” stated SAFS Executive Director Dottie Segur. “We were excited to participate in the program that we believe gave Trevion the chance to experience an inside look into the running of a social service agency. Working with others, problem solving, time management and taking responsibility for tasks were just a few of the life skills he learned on the job. It is our hope that he gained confidence that will benefit him in the future.”
Jonathon Goodloe also enjoyed participating in the program. The student performed grounds-keeping duties including trimming bushes, raking leaves, weeding garden beds, litter pick-up, and painting and repairing picnic tables at Olander Park. “I had a chance to get a job,” stated Goodloe. “I made some friends and I saw an old friend that also stayed in the dorms at the University of Toledo. I really liked living on my own and getting paid for my work. I also liked eating a lot–especially the pizza.”
Students in the program are typically juniors or seniors in high school or recent graduates who live with any disability. Students must have goals of attending post-secondary education, obtaining competitive employment, and/or living independently in the community.
In addition to getting a taste of college life and the working world, the program offers opportunities for recreation and socialization. The students participated in numerous activities throughout the summer, including attending a Toledo Mud Hens game. Many students feel they connected with their peers and life-long friendships were made.