ROCHESTER, N.Y. — New York state continues to work with public school districts and businesses to create hands-on vocational training programs to integrate students with disabilities into careers and the community.

What You Need To Know

  • NYSAA is part of a New York state program for students with the most severe cognitive disabilities

  • Through work-based learning, students gain general education work experience at a number of different job sites throughout Rochester

  • It focuses on assisting students to develop broad, transferable skills necessary for postsecondary education and the workplace

St. John's Meadows, an independent living community campus in Brighton, has 450 residents. The staff works hard to keep things running smoothly. The team has some super special helpers right now to keep things stocked and squeaky clean.

Anthony Mongeon is a senior at Edison Career & Technology High School. He is one of six Edison students part of the New York State Alternate Assessment work-based learning program. He works at St. John's Meadows during part of his school day to learn new skills.

"It's been great for me," Mongeon said. "The job I have now is a lot better. I think it's a great thing."

Daniel Santiago is a Rochester City School District job coach at Edison Tech. He trains and supervises the students on the job at St. John's Meadows. He is also a father of four and a dedicated teacher's assistant with a big heart.

"Working with these kids sometimes feels like they are my own," Santiago said. "I want them to excel and I want them to do well because they are our future. If we don't take care of them, who is going to look after us? They learn how to work with other people. Some of them can be very shy but we were able to open them up to areas they have never experienced. We don't just teach them how to work. We teach them to fill out job applications, resumes, how to interview, time sheet and how to dress appropriately."

Tony Zaccaglino, vice president of senior housing at St. John's says their campus is a new host for the work-based program. 

"We made it a point to treat them like staff," Zaccaglino said. "We had badges made and bought them uniform shirts just like our staff wear. The Edison program said it was something unique that they aren't used to it and they appreciate it. My point was to make them fit in as if they were our staff. I am a big believer in hands-on training. The students started in the fall semester and we plan on continuing it next year."

Fitting in and feeling a part of something is important and a key part of the program. Mongeon knows all about it because he already has a job lined up at St. John's Meadows after graduation. The residents certainly appreciate all the hard work.

Edison Tech is one of the few Rochester City School District high schools to offer the New York State Alternate Assessment program to teach developmentally disabled students life skills to ready them to be more independent after high school.