South Colonie launches Colonie Community Connection; Hosts ribbon cutting ceremony for innovative learning work program

South Colonie students, faculty and community members right before the ribbon cutting
South Colonie students, faculty and community members gather for a ribbon cutting event to celebrate a new program ‘Colonie Community Connection’ on Tuesday, Jan. 18 at Colonie Center Mall.

Learning the necessary skills to be successful in today’s work environment just got a little easier for some South Colonie students. The district announced earlier this year—a new work-based initiative for students that focuses on developing broad, transferable skills for success both in and out of the classroom. 

Colonie Community Connection, the new program for South Colonie students, is more than just a job skills program.  The program aims to connect Colonie students with community and business partners to give students a unique experience both in the classroom and in the business world. Today, the district hosted a celebratory ribbon cutting at their new classroom space at Colonie Center.

“We are excited to celebrate the success of our students and faculty who have been participating and facilitating this program since fall, “ said Dr. David Perry, superintendent of schools. “We continue to be grateful for the partnerships that we have been able to establish with many Colonie Center businesses during the first half of the academic year and now that we have been able to put some finishing touches on our classroom space, we are honored to take the time to highlight the work and recognize the partners who have been instrumental in helping us achieve these opportunities for our students.”

Students working at a table together
South Colonie students work together in the new classroom space at Colonie Center Mall.

The Colonie Community Connection is a complimentary  program to another new initiative at the Colonie Central High School known as the PAES Lab. Created in 2020, PAES, which stands for Practical Assessment Exploration System, was specifically designed to assist students with developing the necessary skill sets to become employed in today’s economy. The Lab can help to assess a student’s competitive work potential and interest level, while simultaneously exploring various jobs, using real tools, and developing proper work behaviors. 

Special education students learn various proficiencies in occupations, such as: consumer service, construction, computer technology, business marketing and processing/production. The experience in the PAES Lab will potentially help prepare them to become part of the  Colonie Community Connection program at Colonie Center Mall. 

“We are thrilled to partner with the Colonie Community Connection Program.” said Colonie Center General Manager Jeff Law. “ It is a unique program that provides these students the opportunity to learn both in the classroom and in the business world. Welcome to Colonie Center!”

At the mall beyond the new classroom space is where you can find students working to identify how and where their interests click and become immersed in a job t program include: Boscov’s, LL Bean, Christmas Tree Shops, Sports Zone and PCX Apparel. This important outreach, with support from community business partners, business leaders and advocates, helps to keep students engaged in being self-sufficient and successful in the workplace.

“Colonie Community Connection is a direct result of the success our students are having within this personalized program,” said Colonie Community Connection teacher Deirdre Locke. “By creating opportunities outside of the classroom, we can enable our students to gain independence, while learning new skill sets and responsibilities to grow their respective career choices. It’s a win-win for both our school community, local business partners and more importantly, it strengthens our students’ ability to become quality employees and citizens in our community.”

Each student in the Colonie Community Connection work program participates in academic classroom activities and then applies the knowledge and skills learned to real world situations offered through internships at community partners’ respective businesses.

The district is currently accepting additional partners within Colonie Center to participate in the program.  “We welcome any opportunities that may exist to offer our students real-world experiences and we believe our current partners and managers would serve as good references thus far.” said Supervisor of Special Programs William Boardman.