Facility Update: The Y will be closed on Memorial Day, Monday, May 27

New Canaan YMCA

An Inclusive Place for All

An Inclusive Place for All

The New Canaan YMCA is where the community comes together, serving all ages, abilities, and backgrounds, and is home to one of the country’s largest inclusive services and support programs. As part of its commitment to serving individuals with special needs, the Y proudly launched an initiative in 2021 to provide employment to teens and adults with special needs within our community.

New Canaan YMCA Executive Director, Margaret Riley, shared, “Our Y is grateful to be able to provide meaningful job opportunities through this important initiative. We value every employee it has enabled us to hire, and we’re excited to continue growing our employment offerings in a workplace committed to inclusivity.”

Since launching the initiative three years ago, the Y has employed seven individuals with special needs. They have held positions in aquatics, youth sports, gymnastics, summer camps, and the Y’s wellness department. Currently, five individuals hold jobs at the Y through the initiative. These employment opportunities provide meaningful work, skill development, and job experience in a supportive atmosphere, while strengthening the inclusive and welcoming environment found throughout the Y.

Carolynn Kaufman, Director of Inclusion & Support Services at the Y, shared, “There is a great need nationally and locally for employment opportunities for teens and adults with special needs.” Through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) those with special needs receive public school services through age 18, with transitional programs offered through public schools to those ages 18-21. These transitional programs guide students with special needs as they transition from high school into the community by teaching career awareness, job exploration, community participation, and independent living.

Upon completion of transitional programs at age 21, individuals with special needs often participate in adult service programs that provide enrichment socialization and skill development, but limited employment opportunities are available. According to the Annual Disability Statistics Compendium, conducted by the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Disability Statistics and Demographics (StatsRRTC), less than 45% of Connecticut’s adults with disabilities were employed in 2021. The Y’s employment initiative aims to help close the gap for this community, providing meaningful jobs that further the skill development and life experiences for employees with special needs.

Kaufman added, “We’re honored to be able to offer job opportunities for individuals with special needs at our Y. These opportunities go beyond our enrichment special needs programs and services by providing competitive employment and meaningful work to hone skills and gain experience. Our goal is that these employment opportunities build confidence, independence, and a professional foundation that helps these teens and adults continue to grow and achieve their goals.”

Many of the employees hired through the initiative have grown up at the New Canaan YMCA participating in specialized and inclusive programming as children and teens. The initiative not only provides employment opportunities, but also strives to keep employees connected to the community and supportive environment they have known throughout their lives.

Joe Lupinacci, a former participant in the Y’s special needs programs as a child, currently works as the Y’s Aquatics Assistant. Lupinacci shared, “I love the Y. My favorite things about working at the Y are getting to work with the kids, learning from the staff, and making friends.”

The employment initiative is made possible through the Cioffi Family Special Needs Employment Fund within the New Canaan YMCA’s endowment. The vision of the Fund is to help strengthen the Y’s commitment to an inclusive and welcoming environment for all. The New Canaan YMCA’s support services department serves over 130 children, teens, and adults with special needs each year through meaningful programs, events, and resources.

Those interested in learning more about job opportunities through the initiative or support and inclusion programming at the New Canaan YMCA may contact Carolynn Kaufman at 203-920-1656 or [email protected]. To learn more about supporting the initiative, contact Kristina Barrett at 203-920-1654 or [email protected].