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Wednesday, Jul 20, 2016

Berkshire opens doors of student-run thrift shop in Hudson

Berkshire launches a student-run thrift shop Academy Clothing this month in Hudson, in partnership with the school districts of Cairo-Durham, Taconic Hills, New Lebanon, and Rensselaer. The shop is part of a plan to implement a jointly acquired $900,000 workforce development grant that enables member districts to certify its students work-ready with the Career Development and Occupational Studies (CDOS) credential. The New York State certified credential shows employers that students are ready to work and familiar with the skills essential to thriving in any workplace.

Academy Clothing is a working business in which students with academic and emotional challenges can practice the skills they learn in class in Berkshire’s nationally recognized World of Work course.

imageStudents drive decisions
“This is a student-run business,” said Jaclynn Wild, School Counselor for Work-Based Learning Programs at Berkshire. “Which means that students come up with ideas for the store themselves—spatial arrangement, organization methods, solving problems—our students contribute so much to the way we run the store and move this whole project forward.” Students who work at Academy Clothing can choose between several job options, including assisting the manager with store operations, sorting clothing, labeling and hanging clothing, or managing the cash register. This is a first job for most students at the shop, earning them valuable experience in retail and customer service as they prepare for the working world.

Opening opportunities

Since taking on the thrift shop project, NYS has made the CDOS credential attainable for all students. This overturns the previous rule that only students with academic or emotional challenges can achieve the credential and learn how to work. “It’s all about exploration at this point for our students,” said Work-Based Learning Job Coach Bert Gamberdella. “Working at the shop gives them the opportunity to learn about what they want to do, and what they don’t. They are learning how to communicate with the public, dress for work, follow steps to complete tasks—all while reinforcing those skills in the World of Work course.”

One of the main goals of the store is to expose student employees to elements found in most retail and customer service settings. This way, they can discover the kinds of tasks they enjoy, or have no interest in pursuing. Gamberdella and Wild talk with students about the futures they want and what they can do to get there.

“Once a student identifies a goal and a direction, we as advisors can work on getting them to where they want to be,” said Gamberdella. “You can get a professional network set up for that student that will help to push them forward in their careers.” The Work-Based Learning team looks forward to the future of the store and providing students with even more paid work opportunities. “I’m excited to see where our students stand next year,” said Wild. “The group that started with us at the store are already learning, mentoring new students, and job coaching themselves. It will be exciting to see them start to coach new students next year.”

To donate items to the store or inquire about store hours: Please contact Maria DeNovio at mdenovio@berkshirefarm.org or Jaclynn Wild at jwild@berkshireufsd.org.

—Sydney Lester
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