New Riverfront program helps people with disabilities prepare for jobs

First group of C.O.R.E. participants graduate from Riverfront

It’s a day of celebration at Riverfront in La Crosse as seven participants graduate from a new pilot program.

Riverfront has a number of programs to help people with disabilities find work. In September, they rolled out their new program called C.O.R.E., which stands for career opportunity readiness and enhancement.

One of the organizers said as a society, we have come very far in helping those with a disability, but this program is taking it one step further.

After three months of hard work, Shannon Riley and Buddy Strickland are two of the first people to graduate from Riverfront’s C.O.R.E. program.

“I am feeling pretty good. It’s a good day,” said Strickland.

“I am kind of excited,” said Riley.

It’s an integration program that helps people with a disability prepare for a long-term job within the community.

“This is a new movement. Looking toward getting people out of these workshops, where they are limited to production work, and assembly work and really take them out in the community and learn new goals and experience,” said Kathleen Shannon, vocational development and training specialist at Riverfront.

During the course, participants worked on multiple job skills.

“We did many hands-on, behind the scenes employment opportunities, such as practicing how to fill out applications to creating resumes, typing skills, how to practice for an interview and how to dress for an interview,” said Shannon.

But Shannon said there’s only so much anyone can learn within four walls so she expanded the classroom to include the community.

“I found we gained so much from being out in the community and working on things. Even if it was paper work, we would go to public businesses that were very welcoming, and we could work on our paperwork and activities within the business setting,” said Shannon.

The participants said it has made all the difference.

“We visited the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse,” said Riley.

“Being able to go out in the community and do things and meet new people. I pretty much enjoyed it a lot,” said Strickland.

Both Riley and Strickland would like to find a job in our community.

“What do you like about the people here? They are very friendly. Friendly, nice and easy to get along with,” said Riley.

“Maybe find a job at a Walmart or Municipal Transit Utility or something like that,” said Strickland.

Because of the C.O.R.E. program, each participant has a portfolio ready to go whenever a job opens up.

“Everyone is capable and has skills and abilities that they may not know, but this program really brings them out and showcases them, which is a wonderful thing to see,” said Shannon.

The seven people that graduated from the C.O.R.E. program Wednesday are from Riverfront.

However, the program went so well that they have already set up four programs for next year, and they are encouraging anyone in the community who is looking for employment.

As the C.O.R.E. program continues to grow, Riverfront would eventually like to offer it in Jackson and Monroe counties as well.

The program is funded through private donations to Riverfront and a grant from the Otto Bremmer Foundation.

A participant’s fee is funded through their managed care organization, such as Iris or Family Care.