“A lot of these kids are so routine-based that starts and stops and different learning models is tough. So being back in person and being able to have that routine has just been huge,” said Steve Christnagel, a coordinator helping students with special needs learn employment skills.
They take donated items, and the students turn them into re-usable furniture and gifts for around the house. You’ll find re-purposed dressers turned into a doll house or a bench with drawers. Its work with a learning component.
“Really the focus of what we do is we teach employability skills,” says Christnagel. “So we’re teaching all the different soft skills that these students will need when they go out, look for employment, and become employable. So that’s everything from learning how to be safe at the job through showing initiative, to accepting constructive criticism. But we do it in a setting here where they can see the tangible [result] of what they are actually accomplishing.”
Forty students get hands-on work experience refurbishing gifts and furniture which are then sold to the public in the home decor shop. An online sales operation was set up during the COVID closure where customers picked up purchases at the curb. But it’s better to see the unique items the students create in person.
Christnagel says students often go from “Say It Again” to a paid job with the help of work coordinators at the schools who connect them with employers. “Say It Again,” is located in Andover at the corner of Round Lake and Bunker Lake Boulevard.