They help disinfect classrooms, wipe down vending machines and sanitize elevator buttons. Known as the PIT Crew, the high school students with disabilities are part of a decade-long job skills program at Wright State University.
The Partners in Transition program is a partnership between Wright State and the Greene County Educational Service Center that began in 2006. The goal is to teach the students valuable job skills while helping the university maintain a healthy environment.
“They help us with many general cleaning skills,’ said Gina Reese, Wright State’s custodial service manager. “They help us do a lot of sanitizing, especially the high-touch points — vending machines, elevator buttons, tables in the library. And they go into classrooms and help us do a full disinfect.”
The students have also helped grow the university’s recycling program.
Seven students are in the program this year. They are seniors at Beavercreek High School between the ages of 16 and 22 who have completed their academics and are now working on job skills. All of them have some sort of cognitive disability and some have physical disabilities as well.
Students from Fairborn and Bellbrook high schools have also participated in the program.
The students come to Wright State each week with their job coaches.
“The students learn about what a job is like in real life,” said Kristin Irwin, job skills/transition coordinator for the Greene County Educational Service Center, which offers alternative education programs, a learning center for students with mental health or emotional needs, intensive needs programming, mental health services, adaptive physical education and speech, occupational and physical therapy.
The students do not get paid for their work. It is considered an educational learning experience.
“We can work on soft skills like how you behave on the job, what’s expected of you,” said Irwin. “You need to have enough stamina to get through the day, have a good attitude.”
Before they graduate, the students are referred to Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, a state agency that helps them find jobs.
About 80 students have gone through the PIT Crew program since it started. They have gone on to get jobs at places such as Soin Hospital, the Beavercreek Golf Club and the food court at Fairfield Commons Mall.
“Our goal is to get them as ready as possible so that out of high school hopefully they can become competitively employed,” said Irwin.
On this particular day, the students are cleaning the Dunbar Library. Wearing neon green T-shirts, they fan out from a blue cleaning cart laden with a broom, feather duster and other cleaning supplies.
Wright State student Hudson Grant, who was using the library, said he enjoys talking to the students because they are “fun to hang out with.”
“It’s amazing. It’s really been great to work with Wright State all these years,” said Irwin. “A lot of these students, their peers go on to go to college. So this site is really nice because they still get to be in a college setting and hang out with their peers and see what college is all about.”