Students who are enrolled in the District 917 TESA (Transitional Education Service Alternative Program) program have been volunteering at the Neighbors food shelf since September 2016. Originally placed by VolunteerMatch, students in the TESA group acquire valuable volunteer experience on a weekly basis. TESA’s post high school program also gives students with disabilities between 18 and 21 years old classes to promote learning practical and useful job seeking skills.

According to Dylan McDonough, Volunteer Coordinator at Neighbors, an average of six to eight students from the TESA program volunteer at the food shelf each Tuesday morning. Jen, a TESA teacher, has coordinated the student volunteer team since 2016. Students work on ongoing tasks at the food shelf involving sorting, packaging, labeling and marking expiration dates on food items. These measurable goals enable the food shelf staff to be up-to-date regarding packaging regulations and meet needs for food shelf recipients.

The TESA students are also grateful for the benefits of being a Neighbors volunteer. They had a delicious pizza lunch at the agency with other volunteers during an impromptu celebration. TESA students recommend that others volunteer at Neighbors. The main reasons the students gave in encouraging others to volunteer included: everyone is nice and the work is fun.

Written by Val Cappiello, Neighbors Volunteer