Program through Goodwill provides work experience

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Grand Valley and Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids have partnered to give adults with autism real-work experiences.

Through the Learning Independence Through Experience program, 20 people are working on campus in the University Bookstore, Campus Dining, Library, Fieldhouse and other departments. LITE participants who range in age from 18-26 work about 10 hours per week.

“Our partnership with GVSU has broadened the scope of the LITE program and increased the opportunities for our participants who are on the autism spectrum,” said Anthony Centille, LITE program coordinator with Goodwill Industries. 

Sharalle Arnold, director of the Children’s Enrichment Center, said LITE participant Marlen Villarreal has been a valuable contributor at the center. “The children are especially fond of her and have come to think of her as an integral part of their classroom experience,” Arnold said.

Centille added that working at a university gives program participants an opportunity to experience college life and gain social skills. He said the unemployment rate for adults with autism is 81 percent.