The students at the Bloomfield Hills Schools PREP program aren’t just learning skills for future employment and independent living, they are vital participants in giving back to the surrounding community. The students have provided up to 1,800 volunteer hours per month to BHS, multiple charities, and local businesses.
All of the PREP students have a professional resume. “The amount of hours that these students have as experience, since most of them started in high school, means their resumes are already three pages long,” said PREP Teacher Meghan Gornick. “They do a semester at a time with our community partners like pet stores or the library. We have quite a few students who are getting hired for after school or weekend jobs.” Some of the community partners with the PREP program have included Bohloff Inc., Cedarbrook Retirement Community, Four Paws Day Care, JoAnn Fabrics, Nino Salvaggio’s, and Oakland Community College Food Services.
According to Gornick, the students love to work with animals the most. “Our most popular volunteer outreach is with organizations like Four Paws or the Michigan Humane Society,” explained Gornick. The students will wash dishes, do laundry, and make dog toys.
Some of the students enjoy more personal outreach. “We have another student who for a year and a half has been writing a card every day to a veteran,” added Gornick. “I have been googling veterans’ homes and asking them if there is anyone who needs a card, and they alway say, ‘Yes, send one to all of them!’”
Additionally, another student has been involved in the Troupons program which involves cutting coupons for troops and their families overseas. This student has personally provided more than $1 million in coupons over the years.
During the winter holidays the PREP program adopts two or more families from the Lighthouse social services agency in Pontiac. Gornick explained, “The staff at the Booth Center where we are located help purchase some of the items, and the students pack and deliver the gifts.” PREP also has organized collection centers for BHS staff to contribute personal hygiene items, canned goods, and gift cards for families in need.
Within BHS the students work in food services, handle recycling and office projects, complete outdoor tasks like mulching and raking, and do other activities that represent what they would accomplish at a workplace.
“Our whole goal is to make their days meaningful,” Gornick emphasized. “When we come to the end of organized activities like we have in high school or the PREP program, we want to be teaching our students to be able to structure their days and make them meaningful.”
PREP is a post-secondary educational program operated by Bloomfield Hills Schools for BHS students. The program serves young adults ages 18 - 26 who have developmental and physical disabilities. The PREP program is dedicated to helping each student become a Prepared, Responsible, Employable and Productive member of the community through instruction in daily living, domestic, social, and functional academic skills along with employment training in community-based work settings.