Students look on at the inaugural orientation for College of the Canyon's and Carousel Ranch's Ready to Work Academy at the Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook University Center Tuesday afternoon. Cory Rubin/The Signal

New COC academy students are ready to work

After 18 months of planning and development, the new Ready to Work Academy at College of the Canyons officially launched Tuesday, for parents, staff and the academy’s inaugural class gathered in the college’s University Center for group orientation.

The academy aims to change the face of postsecondary education for young adults with special needs in the Santa Clarita Valley, academy officials said as they discussed the certificate based courses that’ll cover a variety of subjects, including workplace skills pertinent to the fields of customer service, retail, food service and hospitality.

Seven graduates from Carousel Ranch’s Ready to Work program will take part in the initial pilot course, which seeks to provide students with classroom training, work experience at a local Starbucks and hotel and other skills that’ll help the students in life.

The pilot class and the two that will accompany it in the fall were funded through a grant from county Supervisor Kathryn Barger, according to Executive Director of Carousel Ranch Denise Redmond, who told interested parents to contact the Ready to Work Academy if they are interested in having their child participate in the program.

Redmond added that special needs students often age out of the education system unprepared and unsupported to handle the rigors of job hunting and other life changes. However, “The new Ready to Work Academy at College of the Canyons will change that scenario,” she said.

It’s not about grades; it’s about career growth, academy leaders added Tuesday, while speaking to the roomful of prospective employees.

Jimmy Boone is one of the seven enrolled students in the academy’s first cohort, and he said Tuesday that his previous participation in the Ready to Work Academy was an experience that had a powerful effect on him and his future.

“It changed my life. I went from no job to having everything I needed to find one — the support and everything,” Boone said during the orientation.

“I never went to school (or) college because I never had the support, but now I have new opportunities,” Boone said, adding that he hopes to one day find a career making violins. “I’m excited to embark on this journey and see what the future holds.”

All seven of the program’s participants were selected by the Carousel Ranch staff to join the academy, “meaning they thought very highly of the seven in the room,” said John Milburn, executive director of the college’s Employee Training Institute.

“College of the Canyons is thrilled to be a collaborator in this very important endeavor,” Milburn added. “We are appreciative of our first business partner, Starbucks, for opening their hearts and coffeehouse to give our students real-world experience in the customer service field, (and) together, we will make a difference in the community and touch the lives of these bright and wonderful young people.”

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