Teacher helps students with special needs find permanent part-time jobs

Teacher helps students with special needs find permanent part-time jobs

Remember when you landed your first job? The excitement?

For those with special needs, it’s as exciting — maybe even more so.

But it’s not always easy — they need a little help. Meet Fred Swanson of West High School in Madison. He is doing something good by helping special needs students find jobs, and be part of our community.

Teacher helps students with special needs find permanent part-time jobs

If you’ve been to Lucille in downtown Madison, you might’ve seen David, steel pan pizzas and a recipe that just works.

“I’ve done over a hundred at least,” says David.

David graduated from West High School last year right around the same time he started the job.
Fred Swanson is a transition teacher for students with special needs at West.

“You couldn’t walk in here and pick him out in any way shape or form. He is so normalized and so part of the regular work force,” says Swanson.

He helps place and support young adults in their permanent part-time jobs.

“We had kids in like (a) clerical law firm, in warehouses, in production, in the service industry, in banking, in landscaping and gardening. Indoors, outdoors, nights, weekends. We’ve been virtually everywhere.”

You know Goodwill as a retail store but it’s more than that.

It also helps 130 adults with disabilities — supporting them at their jobs in Dane County.

It’s also the place Swanson worked as a case manager about 30 years ago when he was in grad school.

“He shares our vision that everyone can work. So he will act as a bridge as students graduate from high school and then we jump in with our job coaches and provide the long term support,” says Kate Buenger, director of mission program development of Goodwill South Central Wisconsin.

According to Swanson, “We can just make a difference for every single individual because there’s not anybody with a disability that does not have the capacity to work in the community in a meaningful way.”

Meaningful. That’s what executive chef Evan Dannells wants for his prep chef, David.
“A lot of employees with special needs tend to get sorta hidden like in a backroom doing real menial tasks like that and i thought it was really important to get David up and working with the rest of the cooks.”

And David already knows how he will spend his hard-earned money. He’s saving for a TV and a jersey among other things.

“I don’t want anything different from my students or for my students than I want for my own children. I want you to be happy and successful doing something that you like as an adult. That’s what gets me up every day and gets me out to tell the story to another employer so we can make that happen for another set of parents’ son or daughter,” says Swanson.

Yeah, like I said, a recipe that just works.