As well-rested hotel guests sip coffee in the lobby at the Fairfield Inn and Suites Marriott in Easton, Maryland, students who are a part of Benedictine’s Supported Employment Program have already started their workday.
Beyond the modern coastal-charm inside the newly-built hotel, the Fairfield Inn has one feature that makes each visitor’s experience unique – each stay helps provide vocational and training opportunities for young adults with developmental disabilities.
Benedictine’s Supported Employment program enrolls high-school-age students, referred to the program by Maryland’s State Department of Education Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS), into a variety of job training programs including food service, retail and hospitality. Benedictine and DORS work together to achieve their mission of promoting the employment, economic self-sufficiency and independence of individuals with disabilities.
“While Benedictine provides a multitude of services in the Mid-shore region, our relationship here has truly blossomed,” said Gaffney Shepard, DORS program lead, who attributes part of the program’s success at the Fairfield Inn to the engagement of the hotel’s managers and staff.
Headquartered in Ridgely, Benedictine helps children and adults with developmental disabilities reach their greatest potential by providing opportunities to live meaningful, productive lives in communities of choice. Six students participated in the eight-week hospitality training program that ended in August, where individuals learned job skills in the classroom and in the community.
The Fairfield’s hands-on training included refreshing the breakfast area, sorting linen, organizing toiletries and even staging a sample hotel room. The sample room, an exhibit displayed at community events, is a mobile replica of a guest room used to showcase the hotel’s amenities. Staging the room is no simple task. Each detail from the perfect bed fold to the lamp on the night stand mirrors the accommodations of a Fairfield Inn room.
“I learned how to fold a fitted sheet,” said Sivad, a program student. “Not many people know how to do that,” he added – and few would argue with him.
The skills learned here empower individuals to work anywhere. In the classroom students learn to handle the repetitious tasks of employment. When doing those tasks students who finish the program are better prepared to stay interested and learn how to reward themselves for a job well done. Benedictine’s Shepard refers to these learned traits as “soft skills.”
“They learn how to have an appropriate conversation with their boss and how to ask for assistive technologies,” explained Sheppard.
Other lessons include interview skills and resume writing, all a part of a larger goal to find meaningful employment for every individual.
For General Manager Waitman Vanorsdale and Assistant General Manager Renee Rishel working with Benedictine allows their business to be a part of the community while helping others grow and serve as a resource.
“It helps our team put things in perspective,” said Vanorsdale.
The hands-on management staff appreciates the hard work each student puts in, constantly encouraging team work and providing guidance to help individuals stay on track. “They work hard from the time they get here,” Vanorsdale added.
The group of six students, who joined the program as strangers finished their last on-the-job-training outing with renewed job skills, new friends and with a new business ally in Fairfield Inn and Suites Marriott in helping to achieve self-sufficiency and independence for individuals with disabilities.
Additional program partners include: Knoxie’s Table – part of The Inn at Chesapeake Bay Beach Club, Kent Island, Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay, Cambridge, Masthead Inn, Oxford, Provident Bank, Preston, Fairfield Inn & Suites Marriott, Easton, Washington St. Pub, Easton, Delmarva Community One Stop-Cambridge, One Stop Career Center, Easton and a special mention to the other community partners who were unable to participate this time: Denny’s Ocean Gateway, Easton, Comfort Inn, Easton, Holiday Express, Easton, The Victory Café, Easton.