Thursday is Karen Richards’ favorite day at work. An assistant grower at Mahoney’s Garden Center, where she’s worked for the past 26 years, Richards has overseen dozens of interns from Perkins School for the Blind who come to Mahoney’s for work experience.
“I love having kids come to my work,” she said. “It makes my week, it really does.”
Richards and her colleague Michael Mulhare were among nearly 70 attendees at an Employer Appreciation Ceremony hosted by Perkins on April 30. Representatives from 27 businesses and nonprofits were presented with certificates recognizing them as valued partners in Perkins’ vocational programs.
“Work is the game-changer – it is the single biggest factor in the success of our students once they leave school,” said Dorinda Rife, superintendent of Perkins Educational Programs. “The experiences that you are providing them are literally life-changing.”
Every week, students travel to places like the Watertown Savings Bank or Boston’s Museum of Science, where they perform a job, learn new skills and interact with coworkers and customers. At Thursday’s ceremony, three Perkins students talked about what their work experience has meant to them.
“I think the most important thing is the actual learning that’s involved,” said Chris Palmieri, a student in the Secondary Program. “Whether you’re learning how to interact with the public, or you’re just learning about whatever job it is that you’re doing, I think that is key.”
Chynna Pirrone, a public school student who is enrolled in Perkins’ Transition to Life Co-operative, has worked at Brigham & Women’s Faulkner Hospital, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and the Berklee College of Music.
“I’ve gained confidence in orientation and mobility, socialization and how to do the job,” she said. “Thank you all.”
Many organizations represented at the ceremony have partnered with Perkins for over a decade, developing enduring relationships with students and job coaches. Perkins Job Developer Karen McCormack recognized five businesses and nonprofits that have each provided job placements for students for over 34 years: Mahoney’s, Mount Auburn Cemetery, Mount Auburn Hospital, the Museum of Science and Watertown Savings Bank.
“Thank you for saying ‘yes,’ for opening your doors and your minds to our students and giving them an opportunity to discover and unleash their potential,” she said. “The students who pass through your doors, interact with your colleagues, learn about a new industry and get trained at a new task always leave a little richer because you said ‘yes.’”