The information in this article was submitted by Summit staff. The WOTP Community truly appreciates and values their contribution to WorkPress. Thank you for the inspiration!
Summit School is a private school in Montreal, Quebec, recognized and subsidized in the public interest by the Ministère de L’Education du Québec (MEQ). The language of instruction is English.
Founded in 1963, the school services over 600 special needs students by creating an individualized and enriching environment. The students, from ages 4 to 21, present with a range of difficulties including intellectual disabilities, autism, and/or behavioural and emotional disturbances. There are currently approximately 140 students in the WOTP program.
Summit Flora is a student-led entrepreneurial initiative, which engages young adults with neurodiverse needs in the art of floristry and horticulture. More than just botany, artistic vision, and planning, the program also teaches students about teamwork, problem-solving, and how to become workplace ready. An important benefit of the floral program is increasing student’s self-determination, self-esteem, and self-confidence, as they see the tangible results of hard work and collaboration.
The program began as a class project after teacher Naomi Ellington discovered that her teacher assistant Vicki Surplice was a florist. The class put together a small business plan, decided upon a company name and created a website. The project quickly developed into a Work Skills placement after several collaborations with other Summit programs and outreach to the wider community.
Within their stage, students complete a number of tasks including conditioning and caring for flowers and plants, wrapping and displaying products, designing and preparing bouquets and terrariums, serving customers and taking payments, cleaning and tidying the workshop, taking product photographs and posting on social media, as well as making deliveries and setting up events. In collaboration with the media teacher and the occupational therapist, the work placement instructor has created and implemented several instructional adaptations and accommodations to assist the students with these tasks. These include video modelling, step-by-step task analysis, video self-modelling, social modelling, visual aids, checklists, accessibility technology, and behavioural support.
Submitted by Program Creator/Director: Vicky Surplice
Summit Leather Co. was initially created in 2014 as an extracurricular art program. The program focused on the students making personal items such as bound books, cell phone cases, bracelets, and masks. That same year, the students’ work was featured at the school’s annual student exhibition, and many people inquired about purchasing the students’ creations. So the following year, we made more goods for a fundraising campaign for the program: bound journals, coffee cup sleeves, and cell phone cases. The products sold out, and we had many custom orders to fill. This was my eureka moment!
At this point I asked to be transferred to our downtown TECC campus so that students working in the WOTP program could acquire work skills in a creative environment while accumulating hours toward their WOTP certificate. We continued to sell our products as a means to fundraise for our school.
My first year at TECC, I met a professional in the leatherworking trade, Gisele Desilets. She helped us refine our techniques and put us in contact with other organizations in the community such as the Centre de Métiers du Cuir de Montréal (CMCM). Making these contacts allowed us to improve the quality of our work and expand our product line.
Our creative process starts at the CMCM, where they have generously allowed us to use some of their industrial machinery. We start with the “clicker” machine to cut our leather using dies and a “Kwikprint” machine to stamp our logo on products. Next, we bring the leather back to our classroom workshop where we mark the leather for hole punching using a template, punch the holes using a hammer and handheld punch, set rivets or snap buttons, sew with an industrial sewing machine, assemble the products, and complete the process by tagging and packaging.
We currently make bound journals, coffee cup sleeves, bow ties, keychains, wallets, belts, and aprons. We have a website, attend various artisanal shows each year, and we have our products in four stores around Montreal. We have even expanded our business model to include contracts with companies where we stamp their logo on our products to sell or for them to give away as promotional items. Half of our proceeds go back into the program to replenish supplies or to purchase new equipment, and the other half goes back to our team to help pay for various outings and activities. We are a fully self-sufficient program.
The leather program provides a unique and creative environment where students in the WOTP program at Summit School learn general work skills that they can transfer to a variety of jobs. They also learn specific skills in the textiles trades, fine motor skills, social skills from interacting with customers, math skills when counting money to make change after a customer’s purchase, and self-confidence in seeing a product that they created being purchased by people in the community. The program focuses on competencies in the semiskilled trade sector Fashion, Leather and Textiles.
There has been a gradual evolution of our program that is directly linked to the students’ work and the appreciation of it by our community. However, we believe that the benefits of this unique program extend beyond the individual students and help to challenge people’s misconceptions about the potential of individuals with special needs by shifting the paradigm of their importance and value to the workplace and society, while telling a unique story about our program and school.
Submitted by Creator/ Program Director: Josh Cunningham
The Summit School Copy Centre was founded about 10 years ago at the TECC campus.
The goal of creating the Copy Centre was to provide the students with an internal work placement experience, as well as help create all the paper-based materials used by the school (exercise books, yearbooks, agendas, business cards, greeting cards, etc.) The machinery we use includes an industrial grade manual paper cutter that can cut up to 200 sheets (20 lbs of paper) at a time and a coil punching machine that makes holes for spiral binding and is one of our most used machines. We also use a coverbind machine with a heat sealing binding option, a laminating machine that laminates or plasticises documents in a variety of sizes, and a high volume and high quality printer/scanner.
Submitted by Director: Krystal Bailey
Summit Artisans began in 2011 with the Dog Treats project, which offered our students the opportunity to integrate some cooking/baking and entrepreneurial skills, as well as some fundraising efforts within the school and in the community. That same year we submitted the project to the Québec Entrepreneurship Contest and won the Montreal Regional prize. Our students have been baking the treats ever since!
Over the years, the program has been expanded to include knitting toques, creating hand-made greeting cards, and making soaps. Students named our soap-making “division” Summit Suds. The overall program is now called Summit Artisans, reflecting the hand-made nature of the products.
The tasks associated with the projects promote many skills related to competencies in the Directory of Semiskilled Trades, including proper application of work techniques and compliance with work instructions. Many of the tasks help develop fine motor skills and promote self-confidence, especially when students participate in the sale of our products at various venues such as bazaars.
Submitted by Program creator/director: Zivana Mic
The Summit Bistro Program started five years ago with three goals: a learn-how-to-cook program to inspire and empower our students to cook at home; a baking program to teach students how to follow a recipe and to weigh and measure ingredients; and a bistro service program featuring a simulated work environment that mimicked a restaurant where students could prepare meals for staff and students.
As professional chefs we have been able to bring our knowledge and know-how into the classroom to build the professional attitudes and behaviours, along with the transferable skills, the students need to succeed.
The program has evolved quickly in the five short years it has been running. We have established a business contract with Chef-on-Call and produce their salted caramel brownies. We also do catering for conferences, make boîte à lunch-style lunches for Staff Appreciation activities, and sweet treats for special events and weddings. We highlight the students’ work in seasonal crates that we sell to staff and that include products created in collaboration with other in-house stage programs. We also have a social media presence on Instagram to showcase all the amazing things the students are doing. Our goal is to build social awareness in the community and, through that link, highlight our students’ potential!
Submitted by Chef Instructor Willow Stewart & JJ Heffring
In the Summit Sew Good internal work placement program, students learn the basic skills required for sewing in a professional setting. This stage evolved out of a need to support the school’s leatherworking program by hemming denim and canvas aprons that are then embellished with leather accessories. Students learn through modelling and hands-on experience and work together as a team to complete the various steps needed to complete a project. They learn how to create and use premade patterns, how to pin and cut fabric, how to iron, hand sew, thread a sewing machine, fill a bobbin, put fabric pieces together, and how to sew on a machine. Students are also given the opportunity to create their own personal interest projects. For example, students have made hair scrunchies, infinity scarves (pictured), and hand warmers. In addition to sewing the aprons, students have sewn products that are sold at craft fairs and to families and staff of Summit School. The sewing program focuses on competencies of the semiskilled trade sector Fashion, Leather and Textiles.
Submitted by Program directors: Lisa Lefler and Jenne Saunders
The internal stage programs have helped prepare me for the future by teaching me how to ask politely for help during situations where I am uncertain on how to act. It also taught me to be punctual and respectful toward my superiors during the time working with them. – E
My favorite part of internal stage is that I feel a sense of accomplishment during stages. This is because of the fact that I know that completing the hours and competencies will help me achieve the WOTP certificate, which will help me attain work in the foreseeable future. -E
The internal stage programs have helped me to be independent and be able to work on a task alone after being shown how to do it. -M
My favorite part about it is that I am working with things I enjoy, like making food in the Bistro and assembling books in the Copy Centre. -M
They have helped me get more used to a structure and routine centered around work and a job. It has helped me get settled into a job setting. -G
My favorite part about one of my internal stages is Flora because the atmosphere is graceful, happy and calm. -K
My favorite part is that they provide variety and I get to learn new skills and be creative. I also like being in the Copy Centre because it is very relaxing. -S
They are preparing us to work in a range of businesses and teaches us many important skills, such as being patient, punctual, organized, and flexible. -S
It has helped prepare me by learning new skills that I didn’t know before. -J
They teach us team skills, work skills, and how to be professional. -A