One of the best parts about working at the PlayGarden is being part of a team. Our staff are hard-working, team-oriented, supportive of one another and eager to learn. Our team is silly, playful, creative and best of all, it is diverse.
Our team is made up of individuals across different ages, genders, experience levels, educational backgrounds and across a variety of racial, cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Across all of our programs, the PlayGarden staff includes people with and without disabilities. This diversity of experience, perspective, work styles, and communication styles is what makes the team so strong and so interesting to be a a part of. We ALL belong at the PlayGarden.
Becoming a more diverse and inclusive workplace
Our journey in becoming a more inclusive and diverse workplace has come about in a very natural way. As the PlayGarden has grown, so have the children who attend our programs. We began offering summer camp in 2005 and the kids from our inaugural camp year are now young adults. As our camp participants grow and return to our camp program each year, we create opportunities for them to take on new roles, as junior counselors and then as camp counselors. In true PlayGarden fashion, we extend these growth and leadership opportunities to all of our former camp participants; those with disabilities and those without. Adults with disabilities also work in our Open Play, Summer Camp, and Preschool programs.
Some of these employees are able to work independently while a few of them require assistance during their shift. We are so grateful to have partnered with two local organizations, the Northwest Center and Provail. Both companies support young adults with disabilities as they look for employment opportunities and apply and interview for jobs. Once hired by an organization (such as the PlayGarden), the new employees are matched with a trained job coach. The job coaches help our employees organize their tasks, manage their time and learn key job skills.
Meaningful Employment Matters.
The benefits of meaningful employment are incalculable. Employment contributes to individuals getting to live the life they choose, increases self-worth, and self-confidence. Employment provides financial security, opportunities to learn new skills, a place to make friends and is one of the main ways in which people are seen, heard, and represented in our community.
Unfortunately, the employment statistics for adults with disabilities are staggering. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018, the employment-population ratio—the proportion of the population that is employed— was 19.1 percent among those with a disability, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. In contrast, the employment-population ratio for those without a disability was 65.9 percent.
PAUSE AND REFLECT:
Q: How will young adults with disabilities be part of the community if they are excluded or denied meaningful employment opportunities?
Q: How will companies, organizations and municipalities be able to meet the needs of an ever-changing planet and global economy without diversity of perspectives at the table?
The impact of seeing yourself represented, whether that’s in media or in the classroom, is powerful. Recent studies from Johns Hopkins University have shown just how powerful representation is in student achievement; children of color who have even one same-race teacher in elementary school are more likely to finish high school and more likely to attend a four-year college. We don’t need to infer that representation would be similarly important for children and youth with disabilities, who may struggle to see themselves reflected in the world around them, we know it to be true.
At the PlayGarden, hiring young adults with disabilities gives our preschoolers, summer camp participants, and open play visitors with disabilities the opportunity to see someone like them, doing meaningful work in a job where they are respected and valued.
Having adults with disabilities including Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, ADHD, anxiety, depression, speech and language disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and physical disabilities working in our programs has done nothing but make our team stronger, more creative, and best of all, more responsive to the needs of the kids we serve.
The following is a list of some of our summer camp and preschool staff with disabilities. They are included here not because they have disabilities, but because of all the AMAZING ways they have made our programs richer in the past year. In the coming months we will highlight stories from these phenomenal employees. Until then, here is a sneak-peek into all the ways they are SO cool!
EVERYONE BRINGS SOMETHING DIFFERENT TO THE TABLE
Annie introduced us all to epic wheelchair rides (for 3-4 kids at a time) summer campers. Turns out, wheelchair rides are a genius way to help kids make transitions. As a Teachers Assistant in our Outdoor Preschool program, she has taught out preschoolers how to zip-up their own jackets through describing step by step instructions.
Nick brought his wheelchair and 1 or 2 extras to camp and Open Play with him so we could all learn what it is like to play wildly fun rough and tumble games like Raging Bull in a wheelchair. In doing so he reduced the negative stigma around being a wheelchair user.
Ella Mae worked individually with our Teens at Teen Camp to help them learn how to express themselves through the art of poetry.
Eli brought his rockets and blew us all away.
Asher welcomes us each and every day with the biggest spirit (and best memory) of anyone I have ever met.
Michaela brings humor, high-attention to detail and thoroughness to each shift.
Caroline brought her guitar and one over all of our campers with her singing and dancing.
Nicole laughs and skips as she works. She greets all our preschoolers by name and with the help of her job coach Liv, makes the best banana bread we have had in years.
PAUSE & REFLECT
1. Do you have any co-workers with disabilities?
2. How can you create opportunities for employment for people with disabilities in your
3. “You can’t be what you can’t see.” What does that statement mean to you?