The Transition Partnership program assists students who attend alternative and special education classes to make successful transitions from school to independent adult life. The program offers a two-semester “life skills” course that includes decision-making, career assessment, job preparation, and the development of skills for independent living. Riverside County also provides assistance in obtaining training and employment upon completion of high school, and provides follow-up services for two years after graduation.
Each March, Joshua Tree invites Transition Partnership students to a recruiting seminar in the Palm Springs area. “We introduce them to career opportunities with the National Park Service," said Chief of Maintenance John Slaughter. “For many of those hired, it is their first job and also their first time away from home, which provides an opportunity to put into practice the skills in independent living that they have learned through the Transition Partnership program.”
Joshua Tree National Park partnered with parks in Alaska to share employees hired through the Transition Partnership program. Some employees work at an Alaska park, such as Denali, during the summer and then work at Joshua Tree in the fall and winter.
Joshua Tree also works with San Bernardino County’s Workability program. High school students recruited through the Morongo Unified School District are placed in paid positions where they learn valuable job skills. Positions are funded by the School District through the California Department of Rehabilitation. Three positions were filled at Joshua Tree this summer: a roads worker, a campground worker, and an administrative assistant.
“By working with a variety of Riverside and San Bernardino County programs and groups such as Desert Arc, Joshua Tree National Park is developing future National Park Service employees and providing support for an underserved segment of the local population,” stated Slaughter. Presently Joshua Tree employs seven men and women through these programs.
Slaughter believes national parks, their partners, other federal agencies, and local businesses can benefit from the Transition Partnership program. In many cases, the Department of Rehabilitation can provide funding, coaching, and other support to create a win-win situation for all involved.