Simone’s journey amid the pandemic

Simone wearing red cap and gown for her graduation photo

PYD is happy to have Simone, a student at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School and avid Career Readiness participant be a guest writer on our blog to talk about her experiences in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you, Simone for opening up to us and our community.

“My name is Simone and I am a student at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School. My school is a vocational school, that’s where I learn skills. I am good at math skills and being a cashier, but I am always trying to get better. I try to be nice to everyone. I always try my best. If I need help, I always ask for help with assignments. Being successful in school is the most important thing to me. I earned honor roll every semester and I was Cardinal of the Month and Cardinal of the Week. 

Right now there is a virus called Coronavirus, also called COVID-19. Lots of places are shut down due to the pandemic. The virus has spread all over the world, making lots of people sick. During this virus, we wash our hands a lot, we stay inside more, and if we need to go outside, we wear masks and gloves. I like to go outside for a walk with my mask when the weather’s nice. It’s scary if someone has the coronavirus and you walk past without a mask because you can catch the virus. Charlie Baker said schools were supposed to reopen on May 4, but are now closed for the remainder of the year because of the virus. We now do classwork from home using Google Classroom, Google Meet, and Zoom. We complete assignments, share them with the teachers, and turn them into Google Classroom.

There are some good things about being at home. I feel good learning stuff online and learning computer skills. I used to mostly learn on paper with only a little bit of computer work. I didn’t know about this technology until this virus happened and now I’m better with computers. I don’t have to wake up early like I usually do. I used to wake up at 5 a.m. every morning and now I wake up around 8:30 or 9 a.m. 

But, I miss being at school. I miss everyone. I miss my teachers. I miss doing the cash register at the Hut. The Hut is a cafe where students work and learn job skills. A lot of teachers and students come to the Hut. We serve breakfast in the morning, and we serve two lunch periods. I also restock items, place items in the fridge, and sometimes serve coffee. But mostly, I am the one who operates the cash register. Being a cashier involves a lot of math and accurate counting by giving back change. It also involves good customer service skills and communication with teachers and students or even school visitors. I like to ask, “How can I help you?” and “What would you like?” The Hut has helped me be more confident.

Because schools closed, I had my Individualized Education Plan (IEP) online. It was my first time having an IEP meeting online and my first time using Zoom. For some teachers, this was also their first IEP meeting online. Now I use Zoom more, and I even learned how to host my own Zoom meeting. There’s a lot of new ways now to do school work and to do IEP meetings. During the meeting, I asked for more challenging work like math and other subjects. Right now, I am working with my teachers on long division which is difficult but important to me. My teacher created a classroom for me with long division and he is helping me to do it. There is also a website I use called I asked for what I needed during my IEP meeting. That’s called self-advocacy. Self-advocacy is important because without self-advocacy, people won’t know what you need. You always need to speak up. 

There are classes that we also take online with Darryl, Emma, and Mehdi from Partners for Youth with Disabilities (PYD) about career readiness. We have something called guest lectures. We hear from all kinds of people about the school they went to, their jobs, and their experience. One of my favorites was hearing about Lesley University because we talked about going to college. We also heard from a dentist about his job and about the education he needed to become a dentist. 

We also talked to Olivia who works for PYD from her home, and she told us a little bit about how she works and what she does to help PYD. She organizes our job shadows and our other guests. 

We also take classes called “Live with Mr. D” on Wednesdays from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. We learn about how to find jobs and how to behave at work or communicate with your boss. Mr. D is someone who works with PYD and teaches in schools; one time we went to Whole Foods together for a job shadow. I like “Live with Mr. D” and the other classes because I learn a lot of new information.

During the coronavirus, PYD has been using BigBlueButton to be able to continue our meetings. BigBlueButton is good – now that I learned how to use it it’s very easy for me to go and log on. I feel glad that we can still meet online and continue to learn without missing class. 

I am also meeting once a week with Emma, my Career Readiness Specialist. We practice together and she is helping me to be ready to find a job. We already finished a resume and a cover letter, so now we’re trying to figure out what we need to do next. Right now it is especially hard to find jobs. We practiced interviews to be ready for a job. I had an interview with someone at PYD named Steve. I learned how to talk to people and I feel much better now about interviews. Now I know what to do if I have an interview, for example. 

I am interested in working in an office someday because I want to learn more about computers and taking notes, and I also want more practice answering phones and communicating with people. For example,  I have practice answering phones in the Hut. I want to get better at taking notes, keeping track of things, and doing more than one thing at a time. I feel very excited and ready to find a job.

This is the longest story I have ever written! I hope that you all are healthy and I hope you enjoyed reading my blog post.”