preparation of food

Working during the COVID-19 pandemic means being resilient and thinking outside the box, so when Donna Lowry, who works as a Transition Network/PreETS Support Specialist at the InterMountain ESD, had an opportunity to do that, she ran with it.

The Transition program works with students with developmental disabilities to provide support as they transition from high school to the workforce. One tool used previously by the program are Job Club events, where students can learn about opportunities for employment.

Recently, the statewide Pre-employment Transition Services team has been working on determining how to present events virtually. Then, a student Lowry works with in eastern Oregon wanted to find out more about working at Panda Express. After contacting the corporate office, Lowry worked with Michelle Smith, Panda Express field recruiter for the northwest region, and they organized a Virtual Job Club event, where they presented to students, teachers and transition specialists.

During the Zoom event on January 27th, Smith gave a presentation where she prepared food and talked about the Panda Express organization, their work ethic, upward advancement, entry positions, salaries, benefits, and more. Lowry said the student that she developed the event around introduced Smith at the event, which was a great connection. 

More than 100 students from across Oregon, from Ontario to Medford to north of Portland, participated virtually in the Job Club event. “Students were from all over the state, and there were a number of teachers who logged on as a class,” Lowry said.   

The virtual event was a culmination of many hours of work by Lowry and her ESD counterpart, Lon Thornburg, transition network facilitator, who has created a manual and communicated with many educators to be able to ultimately host events regionally in Umatilla, Hermiston, Boardman, Athena/Weston, La Grande, Burns, John Day and Monument. 

 Lowry said the Job Club was definitely a positive outcome. “The event was over-the-top successful in providing transition services to hundreds of students!”

She also said the program has had registration requests already for the next event being held at the end of this month and throughout this school year.