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Wag Heaven Partners with Texas Workforce Program for Students with Disabilities

The store and dog wash hired four participants in the Summer Earn and Learn program for students with disabilities.

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Shelby Costilla Shelby Costilla

(PRESS RELEASE) GEORGETOWN, TX — Jobs provide opportunities for growth, but there are many who struggle for that opportunity. That’s why when Wag Heaven Pet Supplies and Self-Serve Dog Wash learned about the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) Summer Earn and Learn (SEAL) program for students with disabilities aged 14-22, owners Jusak Yang Bernhard and Jeff Manley gave a resounding yes to participate, bringing in four participants.

Through work-based learning, youth earn a paycheck while learning new skills and gaining professional experience.

SEAL, a partnership between TWC, Workforce Solutions Boards and Texas Workforce Solutions-Vocational Rehabilitation Services (TWS-VRS), works with local employers who partner to create meaningful work opportunities. Students participating in SEAL attend work readiness training to prepare them for successful employment. During their work-based learning, students earn a paycheck while acquiring new skills and professional experiences

Staff and SEAL Workers Donavan Jones and Shelby Costilla.

Staff and SEAL Workers Donavan Jones and Shelby Costilla.

Bernhard and Manley have a brother who is autistic and is blessed to have a job at one of the local high schools, so the success of this program has a deeper meaning. “We make sure that these students receive proper training and respect, to hopefully further their paths into getting permanent employment opportunities,” says Manley.

“The Texas economy is stronger when all Texans contribute to its success,” said TWC Chairman Bryan Daniel. “The Summer Earn and Learn program opens up a new talent pool for Texas employers trying to keep up with labor demands as our economy continues to grow.”

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The SEAL students interact with people and their dogs at both Wag Heaven locations, working closely with staff and managers to learn about pet products and the caring of pets. They are being trained to ring up customers at checkout, receive inventory during deliveries, merchandise and organize products on shelves, and perform daily cleaning chores.

“We want them to gain experience with all aspects of working in the retail industry,” explains Bernhard. “We also met with each of their parents to discuss challenges and expectations.”

The Animal Health Institute reports that animals are instrumental to people with disabilities for comfort, support, and empowerment. The skill pets have to console their humans in vulnerable moments, guide in moments of discomfort, and encourage in instances of defeat has been proven countless times.

The SEAL program has grown to nearly 1,100 worksites, which have included a variety of both private and public sector employers. This year’s program runs through the middle of August.

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