SALEM, Ohio – Paetyn Howell developed a good understanding of work cohesion through her work at Reach for the stars in Salem.
“One thing I’ve learned is that your attitude affects everyone around you,” she says. “It just doesn’t affect you. It affects everyone around you, so you have to come here with a positive attitude. “
Reach for the Stars, which celebrates its fifth anniversary in November, is a downtown Salem gift shop featuring items made by students at the Columbiana Educational Service Center, local artisans and businesses in Ohio. It is located at 440 E. State St.
The store started out in the Kent State University building in Salem before moving to its current location. The launch was funded by an $ 890,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Education.
Gallery images include photos of the interior of Reach for the Stars, including clothing, artwork, and giveaways, all available for purchase.
The store provides a real training experience for students with intellectual disabilities and increases their employability.
“We work with students with various disabilities – most students have multiple disabilities – and an intellectual disability or autism,” says Kitty Kromer, Employment and Transition Coordinator at Columbiana County ESC.
Five students are currently working at the store, learning to count money, taking care of customer needs, babysitting duties and some light painting jobs.
In addition to Kromer, teacher Robin TenEyck, assistant Anita Gillam and store manager Tammy Pitts help students at Reach for the Stars.
Participants in the program also learn basic skills, such as money management, food preparation and laundry.
Before the pandemic, this group worked in different community settings such as grocery stores, hospitals, nursing homes, the Salem Community Center and the city’s small family businesses – getting experiences other than retail.
“The students who come here have a desire to want to work in the community,” Kromer says. “So our aim is to give them enough training and different fields so that they can have the skills to go out and find a job.”
Dillon Hunsbarger, a first-year store associate, says he manages the cash register, makes sure all shelves and floors are cleaned, and everything is presentable in the store.
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, which raises awareness of disability contributions to workplaces and the economy.
Columbiana County ESC is an Ohio Opportunities Provider, providing job training and other services to students and adults between the ages of 14 and 65 who want to work but have barriers to employment.
“We are trying to get help with employment for our students, but we are also working with people all over Columbiana and Mahoning counties who are referred to us with the goal of developing their jobs, getting a job. job or retrain and keep a job, ”Kromer said. .
Kromer had several students who found employment. She has also had success with a summer work program.
The dietetics department at Salem Regional Medical Center, Discount Drug Mart in Lisbon, Goodwill and Giant Eagle in Salem have employed students as part of the program, Kromer said.
An individualized education plan is developed for each student, with an annual evaluation of the program’s effectiveness, Kromer says. The plan is to create goals for the student each school year, whether they are academic, social or professional skills.
Howell, who left Salem High School in 2019, has been a part of Reach for the Stars for the past two years. She blogs on the store’s website and shows an interest in journalism. She says writing is her strong suit – and plans to take classes in it after completing this program.
Becoming a medical assistant or receptionist is her back-up plan, Howell says.
Hunsbarger says he was offered a job by Sundog Ciderhouse and Winery in Columbiana to clean wine bottles, do labeling and other chores.
“I want to look for a janitorial or retail job, but I have a few job openings from different places,” he says.
At Reach for the Stars, wooden items, personalized t-shirts and hoodies, signs, greeting cards and home decor items are sold.
Student workers put price tags on merchandise, track supplier inventory and sales, and decorate windows each month.
There are a variety of merchandise in the store from over 100 vendors. Sportswear with logos depicting Columbiana County high schools, home decor, food and other locally produced items to say we’re inventory too.
The store’s art gallery features works by 15 artists ranging from ceramics to paintings. One of the newer items is Reach for the Stars Coffee, which is roasted in Canfield with the store label.
“We are very proud to say that we have reached 100 suppliers,” says Kromer. “We have 100 people from northeast Ohio. All [we sell] must be made or recycled in Ohio. This is one of our requirements. We are therefore a showcase, really for local vendors and artisans.
The seller receives 75% of each sale, while the nonprofit store uses the remaining 25% to pay employees and maintain their building.
Those interested in selling their items with Reach for the Stars can visit Reach4TheStarsGifts.com or call 330 853 5721.
Above: Paetyn Howell writes a blog for Reach for the Stars in downtown Salem.
Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.