Nathan Kohnert, Brittany Dean and Job Coach Jessica Brand.

JCC’s Special Needs Department, Jewish Senior Life and Meer Apartments have partnered to teach life skills to young adults with special needs.

Young adults living with special needs don’t have many chances to learn life skills outside of their own homes. The Jewish Community Center’s special needs department has changed that.

This summer, the department began a program with Jewish Senior Life (JSL) and its Meer Apartments to help young adults ages 16-26 with special needs develop independent living skills.

Meer Apartments in West Bloomfield offered an apartment so the students can learn to cook, do laundry, make beds and clean, among others.

Participants’ special needs range from nonverbal to high functioning, but the program has benefits for all 30 of the students involved.

Elizabeth Paul cooks mac and cheese. Lizz Cardwell

“This is a real application opportunity for students to learn hands-on,” said Stephanie Zoltowski, director of the JCC’s special needs program. “The participants really look forward to going.”

Jo Rosen, JSL executive director of development, said, “Michigan is the only state that provides these community living services and funding for these individuals. JSL is honored to offer a safe space for them.”

Noah Green helps hang clothes. Lizz Cardwell

Although initially a summer program, the special needs department is planning to continue the program into the school year. Currently, the activities in the program are largely individual, but hopes are to expand and begin doing more activities with JSL.

Zoltowski is excited about possibly giving program participants jobs at the apartment building, which will allow the opportunity to interact more with staff and building residents. She also hopes to have activities such as work-out classes that both special needs program participants and JSL residents will be able to attend.

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