Seventeen-year-old Jessica McNutt is dreaming big about her future – and making it happen. As a recent graduate of the H.I.R.E (Having Inclusive Rewarding Employment) program, it didn’t take her long to make her entrepreneurial dreams a reality. She celebrated with friends and family on December 5, 2015, during the grand opening celebration of Jessica’s Closet, her dream-come-true thrift and consignment shop in Turner Valley.
Successes like these are made possible each year by the Foothills Special Needs Association for Parents and Siblings, or Foothills SNAPS for short, a proud partner of Alberta’s Promise. The organization creates inclusive communities by enhancing the lives of individuals with special needs through education and skill development.
The H.I.R.E. program helps youth and young adults overcome barriers to employment, whether they be cognitive impairments or challenges with social interaction. The program is flexible to meet the needs and goals of each individual, whether that includes finding employment, volunteering in the community, or starting a business. Students like Jessica attend class Monday to Thursday for 5 to 8 weeks and learn how to make career decisions, polish their resume, search for jobs, and learn the skills to make them effective employees. The program also helps participants gain work experience through job shadowing and placement support, a big help to Jessica as she was learning the intricacies of running a business.
The road leading to Jessica’s entrepreneurial success also included careful planning during her years in high school. From age 14, students from all three school divisions in the Foothills region can be referred to the Foothills SNAPS Transition Action Planning Program (TAPP). Working with students and their parents, the program helps youth explore their options after high school graduation.
“It’s important to allow kids and parents to dream about the possibilities,” says Foothills SNAPS executive director Orvella Small. “And come up with a plan to make it happen,” added Alise Kuipers, H.I.R.E. program coordinator. The plan may include post-secondary education, entering the workforce, volunteering, or, as in Jessica’s case, an entrepreneurial venture.
Foothills SNAPS relies heavily on fundraising, donations and grants to serve children, youth and young adults facing challenges entering the workforce. Community and business support make up the core of their operating funding, and their partnerships with local businesses in High River and area create the opportunities for youth and young adults to become skilled employees and business leaders. For more information on getting involved with Foothills SNAPS, please contact Alberta’s Promise at 1-877-313-7500 or email@example.com.