Photo courtesy of Lee Pellegrini / Boston College

A Look into BC's Supported Employment Program

Margie Richardson, an employee at Boston College since 1981, has enjoyed the time she’s spent working at BC. Since she started, she has worked in several dining halls, and currently works in Lower Live. Five days a week, Margie comes in to wipe tables and clean up after students in the dining hall. “[The students] have always been great. [She] has always loved interacting with the students and getting to know some of them over the years.” In fact, that’s one of Margie’s favorite parts of the job. 

Margie works at BC as part of the Supported Employment Program (SEP). SEP was started in 1987 by the Campus School and the Boston Children’s Hospital. The program began to enable individuals with developmental disabilities to work in positions all around campus. While the employees are most commonly seen in the dining halls, they also work in the recreation center, mail rooms, libraries, and more. 

When the program began in 1987, there were only six individuals who participated. Even though Margie began working for BC before the SEP existed, she was one of the program's first employees. Now, the program supports 24 individuals thanks to the help of several job coaches, including three PULSE students every school year. The job coaches help the participants individually to ensure that they do not have any issues doing their jobs or communicating with their management. This has been especially important this school year due to a brief hiatus for all of the program’s employees.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the program was going strong and all of the employees were enjoying their work. In March of 2020, SEP had to shut down, putting all of the employees out of work. After a year and a half away, they all came back at the beginning of the 2021-22 school year. Ned Reichenbach, who washes dishes in Lower Live, said, “[he] couldn’t wait to come back to work at the start of this year. Being at home that long was starting to get really boring.” Luckily for Ned, his group home was able to remain open during the pandemic and most of the people in the house stayed the entire time. However, he was not allowed to leave his group home for several months, and his only communication with his family and friends that he did not live with was through his computer. This was the case for 9,000+ residents of group homes that operate under the Department of Developmental Services in Massachusetts. 

On top of being prohibited from going to work, Ned was also not able to partake in any of his hobbies such as sports and public speaking. He plays on teams throughout the year in basketball, soccer, dodgeball, and more. “The thing that [Ned] missed the most during the pandemic is public speaking.” He said that he has spoken for many different groups, including the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and local Special Olympics groups and looks forward to continuing this in the future. His first opportunity to speak in nearly two years is coming up soon at MGH. 

SEP has provided an opportunity for Ned, Margie, and the other participants to engage in work that they truly care about in a community that has become very important to them. Ned is especially proud that he gets to work at BC because he is a big fan of the sports teams, and several of his family members attended or currently attend BC. Margie has been “very thankful for all of the people that she has worked with in her 41 years at BC. Now, [she] can’t wait to see what [she] will do when [she] retires in a couple of years.”

Devin Klein
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