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October 30, 2019

Michael Nelson and Jackson Byrd are just two students developing life-changing job skills with on-campus internships through JCCC’s College Learning Experiences, Activities and Resources (CLEAR) Vocational Training Program.

Left: Michael Nelson; Right: Jackson Byrd

Michael Nelson loved being an intern at the JCCC Bookstore. He even asked manager Ashawnte Thompson if he could apply for a permanent position when his internship ended.

“That second time, Michael went through the same process all candidates go through,” Thompson says. “He filled out an application and interviewed with everyone else.”

"Providing vocational skills and practical application through the use of classwork and internships is vital to filling the employment gap for the students we serve through the Vocational Training Program." Courtney Barden, CLEAR Program Manager

Of course, he got the job. He’d had on-the-job training as an intern. He also used his soft skills, such as making eye contact when talking to someone and listening attentively. It’s all part of CLEAR’s Vocational Training Program (VTP).

In fact, Michael did so well that he found a permanent job off campus. Now he works in the postal department at Saint Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City. He’s CLEARly a success story.

Independent living skills

“Vocation and career development are primary keys to independence for all students,” says Courtney Barden, CLEAR Program Manager. “Persons with disabilities are unemployed or underemployed at much higher rates than their peers without disabilities. Providing vocational skills and practical application through the use of classwork and internships is vital to filling this gap.”

Michael and his VTP colleagues like Jackson Byrd are eager to work independently and they take direction well. Plus, says Thompson, they have skills that fill important roles in the workplace.

“The Bookstore is a large operation with 50 employees, and different tasks require different skill sets,” Thompson says. “There is something for everyone here. If they’re chatty, they work on the floor. If they prefer to not interact with people, they can stock or work in the warehouse.”

Bookstore floor supervisor Ashley Hunter pairs each VTP intern with another employee during the first weeks to get a feel for what tasks the student enjoys and is comfortable handling. Jackson, whose smile lights up his entire face, likes being around people. He spent his first day on the Bookstore floor hanging sweatshirts and folding clothes. He also wants to learn warehouse tasks.

“I like to do it all,” he says.

Life-enhancing opportunities

Jordyn Bogdan, CLEAR Coordinator in charge of VTP, works with different College departments to place students who can fill needed positions and improve their job skills. On-campus internships let these students take that first big step in a familiar environment.

“We can provide guidance when needed while also giving students more independence as they work their shifts,” Bogdan says. “Many of our students depend on other means of transportation, so having on-campus internships helps relieve the pressure of scheduling rides to other locations for work.”

While the students clearly benefit, College departments who participate in these vocational training internships gain just as much.

VTP students add diversity to the workplace. They can help develop the staff’s overall communication style and promote leadership development. Plus, College departments get needed help without the cost of hiring and training new employees. VTP students are paid through CLEAR, so other departments that want to partner with the program won’t have a financial strain.

“Our VTP students are eager to work with their peers and are excited to learn employment skills so they can lead more independent lives,” Bogdan says. “These internships are a great learning opportunity for all parties involved.” 


Do you have a position that a CLEAR student could fill? Help an awesome, hard-working and dedicated person develop essential job skills. Email Jordyn Bogdan or call 913-469-8500, ext. 2695.