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Life Skills Program at Tennyson Center for Children

Written by Djuana Osby, Life Skills Coordinator

The goal of Tennyson’s Life Skills Program is to set students up for success prior to discharging from Tennyson. Students aged 12 years and up are given the opportunity to earn an internship on campus; internships range from helping the marketing team to collecting recycling around the building to preparing meals for meetings. To be awarded an internship, students must complete a job application and obtain signatures from staff including a clinician, teacher, and parent or residential supervisor to be eligible. In addition, a client’s entire external team (which may include caseworkers, Guardians Ad Litem, districts, or probation officers) is consulted.

Life Skills internships teach soft skills like making introductions, punctuality, initiative, and work ethic. The “pit crew” does basic maintenance on agency vehicles including pumping gas, filling tires, and checking fluids. Teachers’ aides assist in classrooms with younger students at the direction of the teacher, and may serve as role models, run errands, or support children with academics. Journalism interns plan, research, and write articles for Tiger’s Roar, Tennyson’s monthly student newspaper. Tiger’s Roar even includes a monthly comic created by our resident student cartoonist! Some interns work in the cafeteria, helping with meals and learning about health regulations. Others cook lunch monthly for new employees during their orientation day, make special breakfasts for Tennyson’s Board of Directors meetings, and bake treats for bus drivers and volunteers. Our attendance clerk learns to work in an office, assisting with the collection of attendance and other office tasks.

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In addition to internships, students who have demonstrated consistent safety and responsibility are given the opportunity to apply for a “hall pass”. If approved by the staff supporting the student, the hall pass grants a student access to move freely about campus without a direct adult escort. This “badge of honor” recognizes the hard work that students have put into their academics, treatment goals. and behavior, and offers a tangible payoff.

Finally, community members visit Tennyson’s students through the Life Skills Program to share tips about becoming job ready. Mock interviews prepare students for job hunting, as do conversations about dressing for interviews, managing social media image and presence, and preparing a resume. Other practical skills are gained through field trips that offer students the chance to understand and master public transportation, as well as to visit college campuses.

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