Triangle
people with ability
For 49 years, we’ve been walking together toward a brighter future. Welcome to Triangle, Inc.!

Workforce Development and Day Programs Team Up!

When Yolandi Cruz Guerrero was hired recently to join Triangle’s Workforce Development team, she had no idea that she’d get to take part in a first-ever collaboration between Triangle teams. Working in partnership with Triangle’s Director of Transition and Community Service Brittany Mendez, Yolandi taught Pre-Employment Training Services (Pre-ETS) classes to people enrolled in Triangle’s day programming via Zoom. This is the first time we’ve offered this series of courses to our day program participants and we were excited for the opportunity to offer this new and valuable training, including Work Readiness Training and Job Exploration Counseling lessons.

The trainings were conducted over Zoom, and consisted of four one-hour trainings a week, for a total of 16 classes. During Work Readiness Training, participants learned about and practiced valuable soft skills important to getting and maintaining jobs. The training covered soft skills such as communication (including the 3 Vs: visual, verbal, and vocal communication), making first impressions, professionalism, and interviewing. In Job Exploration Counseling, program participants learned more about themselves. This training series helps participants to determine potential jobs/careers and make plans for them, based on individual interests, skillsets, values, preferred environment, and experience, while considering qualifications and the labor market.

The program participants learned how their lifestyles and experiences have equipped them with employable skills. At one particular training, the team discussed how joy can be a skill to bring into the workplace. In Yolandi’s words, “This reframing of joy was crucial for these participants, to comprehend that there is an emotional compass that can help you navigate the professional worlds you would like to enter.”

For members of the Workforce Development team who had worked with these participants in the past, it was great to spend time with them again. They were able to witness how they have grown over the years and how they are putting their training to use in the working world. They could see that program participants prioritize employment and independence on a daily basis. The trainings aligned well with the goals of the program. The students were active participants on Zoom, despite the training running from 3-4:00pm each day. Triangle’s programs will continue to find ways to collaborate in the future, and hopefully produce even more excellent results.

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Triangle’s CEO Reflects on a Unique Year!

Remember how excited we all were to start the new decade?  January of 2020 started off promising.  Here at Triangle, we were one year away from our 50th year of operations.  We had just opened our new facility in Salem to replace a nearby older site that had seen better days.  We were excited to open our new Workforce Development and Testing Center in downtown Malden.  We were in the midst of a search for a new flagship service site and headquarters building to replace our longtime home.  And, our programming and self-advocacy curriculums were being utilized by a growing number of school systems and outside organizations across Massachusetts and spreading as far as North Dakota! 

Yup, things were looking bright and the future was rosy.   

Well, around one month later we all started to see reports on TV and social media about a strange new virus.  Ordinarily, this would not be the kind of news that generates an overreaction or pushes the proverbial “panic button,” but given the severity of reports, I asked our Chief Clinical Officer Melissa Strout to “keep an eye on this” and start researching the potential implications of how COVID-19 could affect our residents, participants, and organization as a whole.  Three weeks later, this initial prep work helped to save lives and livelihoods of our participants, residents, staff, and, most likely, the agency as a whole. 

For those of you who are new to Triangle, the short version is what happened next, happened very quickly.  When we saw rising case numbers in the US through the beginning of March and analyzed the data from the World Health Organization and Massachusetts Department of Public Health, we decided to suspend in-person programing and implement strict quarantine procedures at all nine of our residential homes.  We sent all of our non-residential employees home with a commitment to ensuring that through the remainder of the fiscal year we would maintain their pay and employment status, regardless of their ability to work.  All departments quickly shifted focus to develop innovative virtual curricula that made our programs lively and interesting. We expanded our programs to reach people with disabilities on nights and weekends and enhanced the social aspects of our programs at a time when the people in our programs were feeling increasingly isolated. Our Workforce Development team began to offer virtual services to students and adults and, later, opened two new testing centers in Malden and Salem. These two test centers were authorized to provide educational and professional tests during the pandemic, providing an essential service to job seekers in need of required credentials or certifications to obtain employment.

Our residential program acted quickly to incorporate staff from other Triangle departments who raised their hands to work in our homes. This was essential, as our residents were no longer leaving their homes during the day for programming or jobs and required 24/7 care and staff to help facilitate daily activities.  Of all those who worked diligently to support our population during the pandemic, our residential staff and management bore the largest set of challenges in keeping spirits high and attentions focused for a group of people who now felt completely cut off from their outside lives, employment, and social networks.  Through their dedication and sense of mission, we have managed to make our residents’ experiences and living situations as supportive and meaningful as possible. 

Today, looking back over the past 12 months, I am extremely proud of this entire organization and what we were able to accomplish despite all the challenges of COVID and 2020.  Each and every member of the Triangle team understood their duty to the people in our programs. For as hard as this situation was for our staff members, the pandemic’s deleterious effects had an outsized impact on people with disabilities. Our participants were cut off from their jobs, their friends, and the staff who support them every single day.

We certainly learned a lot from the past year and stand ready to carry the innovations we developed forward into our “new normal.”  From a technology standpoint, we now know that remote and virtual programming can play a vital role in helping support people as an addendum to everyday in-person sessions.  After losing the ability to provide community-based employment opportunities, we cannot wait to re-engage our employment partners with enhanced programming and an eager workforce ready to earn a paycheck. 

It was a year for the books.  I, like many of you, wasn’t sad to see 2021 kickoff.  However, for those of us who were here at Triangle, during this tumultuous time, we will look back with pride on how we came through to the other side knowing all we did to overcome and ensure that we fulfilled our obligations to our participants and mission each and every day.  

Posted in COVID-19, Fund for Ability, Op - Ed | Tagged | Comments closed
Triangle, Inc. is a registered non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.