MNM Alumna Kelly Kildare Returns to Speak to Students in MNS Summer Work Program

“We want work. We need work. We can work. We are willing to work.”

Select Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf Students enrolled in the Mill Neck Services (MNS) Summer Work Program recited the club motto in unison. The students were attending the last in a series of Work Readiness workshops, which serves to prepare each of the students for their summer job placement. School teachers, teacher assistants and MNS job coaches and staff collaborate to bring the motto to life and to promote confidence in the students.

When the Summer Work Program students showed up for the final Work Readiness workshop in their interview-appropriate attire on May 31, they politely gathered around the table, seated in front of their corresponding nametags. In an orderly and respectful manner, students went around the table to introduce themselves through their prepared elevator speeches to Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf alumna Kelly Kildare and the staff present in the room.

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Kildare was invited, along with job coach Kristin Chykirda, to return to the very program that helped her get started in the work force. For the past four years, Kildare has been consistently and confidently working for the King Kullen store in Bellmore. MNS Coordinator of Employment Services Marta Reeger, leading the MNS Summer Work Program for 2017, recognized that bringing Kildare back to explain her work experience to the students would be a tremendous influence.

After the students had the opportunity to introduce themselves and describe their skills, and before they performed a mock job interview, with Kildare playing the role of Boss, she described the path she took to employment as a cashier. Students asked questions, eager to learn more. She described challenges she encountered with counting money in an accurate and timely fashion, navigating communication challenges, overcoming nerves and more.

“It wasn’t easy,” Marta Reeger jumps in to remind the students “but, [Kildare] never, never, never gave up!”

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Mill Neck Manor Alumna Kelly Kildare with Mill Neck Services Coordinator of Employment Services Marta Reeger

Kildare’s journey to employment began with the school’s Vocational Program, where she gathered experience in a number of settings. One such setting, the school store, provided practice in money management and learning customer service. After graduating in 2010, Kildare joined the Mill Neck Services Job Club where she worked on her interview skills and participated in the Day Habilitation program to gain further experience through volunteer opportunities. Despite developmental challenges and being Hard of Hearing, Kildare has made great strides in her position as a cashier at King Kullen. With her friendly personality and willingness to learn, she has progressed steadily.

Other learning opportunities and responsibilities have grown from Kildare’s employment experience, like learning how to take public transportation and making sure her uniform is ready ahead of her scheduled work day.

When asked about her job, Kildare is emphatic in her response. “I feel confident. I feel brave. I feel proud of myself,” she says.

Through the workshop, Kildare hopes to share her enthusiasm and willingness to motivate the students. “If you guys are confident, you will definitely find a job shortly.”

Kildare took her role as the boss for the mock interviews very seriously. She met with each of the students separately and stamped their applications as either “Hired” or “Not Now.” Not all of the students were quite ready according to her standards, which highlights the challenge of the journey.

Believing in the transformative power of a job, Mill Neck Services continually advocates for candidates with disabilities, especially since the rate of unemployment for people with disabilities is significantly higher than for the general population. Creating a culture of inclusive employment has the potential to work for all; from the individual with a disability, the employer who is rewarded with qualified, dedicated workers, the agencies that strive to match the two, all the way to entire communities.

Established in 1986, Mill Neck Services (MNS) has placed more than 1,000 Deaf, Hard of Hearing or otherwise disabled workers in over 400 businesses operating on Long Island. To find out how the qualified candidates in the Steps to Success Program at MNS can help your business, please contact Marta Reeger, Coordinator of Employment Services at mreeger@millneck.org or 516-922-3818, ext. 315.

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