This summer, the Next Move Program returned to the University of Richmond for a fourth year. The program provides independent internship experiences for young adults with special needs.

University staff members partnered with the interns for the six-week work assignments for interns with disabilities. Staff included Gretchen Guinn, Cynthia McMillan, and Cindy Casey at the Weinstein Center for Recreation; Larry Richmond, Jr. and many supporting team members from Landscaping; Jalesa Taylor, Iria Jones, Malorie Olivier, Travis Smith, and Sam Schuth from Boatwright Memorial Library; Liz St. John and more team members at the Spider Shop; and Michelle Taylor and the Dining Services team. Each location has hosted Next Move interns in previous years.

Jalesa Taylor commented that this was the second year her department has hosted interns. “The experience has been great each time!” she said. “Our intern this year was so helpful. She picked up on how to do tasks immediately, and she was just so sociable and fun to be around! Mary and Elizabeth are really responsive leaders and are quick to answer any of our questions or concerns. They do a fantastic job checking in on not only the interns, but the supervisors as well, to make sure that we are all having fun with and benefiting from the program!”

Mary Townley, director of educational services and co-founder at New Move, and Elizabeth Redford, M.A.Ed., executive director and co-founder, coordinated the students’ assignments. The students were Ryan Bolton, Kayla Lefferts, DJ Fonville, Carli Ogorchock, and Benjamin Raymond, whose mother is Dr. Hilary Raymond, a visiting lecturer of French at the University.

“My son truly enjoyed the opportunity to work at UR after being a fan of Spider sports his whole life,” said Raymond, whose husband is a University alumnus. “The program gave Benjamin the opportunity to work in the gym, which was ideal for my sports-loving, high-energy teen. The icing on the cake was meeting Coach Mooney and members of the men's and women's basketball teams. Since he just graduated from high school and has not had work experience beyond volunteering at the SPCA, we are glad it was such a perfect match for him. Like all young adults, he is somewhat nervous about leaving the known routine of high school, but the program gave him a better idea of what he could do for employment and where he might want to work in the future.”

Townley and Redford noted the interns make “tremendous gains” as they train and learn in an authentic business setting. Next Move job coaches developed training checklist for the interns, and daily independence ratings were collected for performance of each step of the job sequence. Job coaches also met weekly to evaluate each intern’s overall performance and to develop strategies to further encourage individual growth.

“It's been a great pleasure to work with the Next Move internship program for the past four years,” said Michelle Taylor. “These individuals work very hard to accomplish their training.”

Interns also spent three hours daily participating in classroom instruction. The University of Richmond Downtown, which offers free space for nonprofits, has been a site for many of the classes. Next Move’s curriculum correlates with the Virginia Department of Education’s “The Workplace Readiness Skills for the Commonwealth of Virginia.” Lesson topics include company-required safety trainings, goal setting, resume writing, body language, appropriate workplace conversation topics, job applications, punctuality, dressing for work, resignation letters, and interviewing.