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Oshkosh teachers see life-changing work of Goodwill program

Goodwill’s School-to-Work program has provided positive, life-changing experiences for the Oshkosh West High School students that teachers Kris Steinhilber and Patti Kimball have brought through at the Oshkosh Retail Store and Training Center on 20th Avenue.

Tyler Andre, 18, is one of them.

“He needs to get out and get into the community,” his father Michael Andre said. “By going out in the community and working like this, he gets to meet new people.”

School-to-Work is a cooperative effort between Goodwill and school districts that provides valuable work experience for high school students with special needs. These work experiences help to bridge the gap between the classroom and working in the community.

One source of pride is that Tyler’s leaders and the other Goodwill team members gave him his first nickname — Big T. Tyler insists his mom and dad can’t use it, saving it only for his Goodwill family. For Tyler, who is chatty and talkative, the experience offers a social aspect, one that he doesn’t have at school, Michael said.

“It’s something different in his life,” Michael said.

Not only have his parents seen an improvement in his confidence and level of independence and responsibility, but they are grateful that he has been embraced and has a place to belong, including having a social network.

“Everybody wants to have friends,” his mother Debra Andre.

“Goodwill’s team consistently provides an atmosphere of feeling valued,” Kris said. “The store’s team is engaging, forgiving, kind and has positive energy each shift we work. Our students pick up on this immediately. It gives them the environment they need to learn and succeed not only in work relationships but also helps foster a productive work ethic. It is one of the safest, most nonjudgmental environments we have worked in.”

Never having worked before, Tyler was thrust into a new experience for the 2017-18 school year when he joined the Goodwill store and learned how to use a timeclock, communicate with team leaders, work in teams and learn the task he was assigned and how to do it in a timely, correct manner. He caught on quickly, and the teachers began to push Tyler with increased responsibilities.

Enthusiastically greeting everyone he can, Tyler works five shifts a week, taking the city bus as transportation. He has learned the routes, is timely and never has missed a bus yet.

“I love working at Goodwill,” he said.

Because it is a School-to-Work program, there is no work when school is not in session, which is something that disappoints Tyler.

“This past winter, Oshkosh was expecting some bad weather,” Kris said. “The talk of perhaps school closing the next day bothered Tyler. He came to us during the school day and asked if he could join the team going that day, as he would miss his shift the next day if school was cancelled. That took some forethought, and we are proud that Tyler has taken ownership of his work shifts.”

“I have seen the impact Goodwill has made on this young man,” said Molly Cook, customer experience team leader at the Goodwill Oshkosh Retail Store and Training Center. “From what I hear he was a struggling student who was not very independent and Goodwill has changed that around for him and given him something to strive for.”

Kris and Patti understand and see how life-changing Tyler’s experience at Goodwill has been.

“We are proud of Tyler and his work ethic at Goodwill. Tyler’s work brings him a sense of pride and self-confidence we don’t always see from him. … We know in the years ahead what Tyler gleaned from this experience will serve him well in his work future,” Kris said.

“When people speak to him about Goodwill he refers to it as ‘my Goodwill.’ Tyler suggests to people to shop at ‘my Goodwill.’ ‘Maybe you could check at my Goodwill. I work there.’ He takes such pride in the store and the work that he does.”

“He loves it. He loves doing it,” Michael said. “He loves the experience. He loves the people.”

About Goodwill: Goodwill NCW is a not-for-profit human services organization that in 2017 helped improve the lives of more than 70,000 people across 35 counties in north central Wisconsin. Goodwill NCW is one of four companies in the nation to be honored with a Platinum Well Workplace Award from the Wellness Council of America, which recognizes our commitment to wellness in the workplace. The organization includes 27 retail stores and training centers in communities from Manitowoc to La Crosse, 24 human services programs, a unique shopping experience at its Appleton outlet store, plus online shopping at www.reStitch.com, a women’s apparel website, and www.shopgoodwill.com. It offers four Donation Express sites and 10 convenient donation bins throughout the Fox Cities. Goodwill NCW is a Platinum Level member of GuideStar.org, the world’s largest source of nonprofit organization information. Visit www.goodwillncw.org.

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