Community Partnership: Chapel Haven West

Community Partnership: Chapel Haven West

AUTHOR: Erin Treat, Online Engagement Coordinator

As part of our renewed commitment to our Arizona communities, Arizona Theatre Company is proud to share the details of a burgeoning partnership with Chapel Haven West!

Chapel Haven West (CHW) is a private nonprofit agency in Tucson serving individuals with mild developmental disabilities and those on the autism spectrum. According to CHW Vocation Coordinator Samantha Sharman, “We are dedicated to empowering adults with social communication challenges to learn to live independent, productive, meaningful lives.”

The CHW vocation program is made up of three components: classes that teach students the skills necessary to effectively navigate the work setting; a work study program through which students participate in targeted internship to practice and grow their skills; and – when they’re ready – application for paid employment with the help of CHW’s trained vocational staff.

In spring of 2017, Ms. Sharman approached our Learning & Education Associate Jasmine Roth to see whether CHW’s vocation program would be a good fit for ATC, and Ms. Roth coordinated with other key ATC department heads to help find and create meaningful internship positions for CHW students.

Currently, ATC is working with two interns from Chapel Haven West: Lauren Damuth and Josh Gordon. “I work closely with each student to find internships that align with their strengths and interests, as well as their areas for growth,” Ms. Sharman said. “The students who currently work for ATC had previously expressed interests in education, theatre arts, and construction.”

Lauren Damuth has spent the past few months working in the Learning & Education department with Ms. Roth and with Administrative Assistant / Volunteer Coordinator Angela Aldrin on administrative tasks ranging from clerical work to greeting and assisting patrons before shows. Josh Gordon interns in the scene and prop shops, where he has worked closely with Technical Director Phil Blackwood and Assistant Technical Director Dominic De Riso, who are mentoring him in key areas of artistry and construction.

“Both students have immensely enjoyed their experiences,” said Ms. Sharman. “In addition to having the opportunity to practice their social communication and vocational skills – key areas that CHW teaches – they are also learning transferable hard skills that they will be able to take with them to future jobs.”

The Chapel Haven West work study program runs through their academic year, from July through the following June. Ideally, CHW interns find paid employment prior to their June graduation. At that point, ATC expects to welcome a new class of interns. “ATC has offered invaluable opportunities for our students’ growth toward independence and has played a large role in their discovery of career interests and strengths,” Ms. Sharman shared. “The team at ATC has been accommodating, supportive, and inclusive, and serves as a model for how businesses and organizations in our community can take advantage of the unique strengths and perspectives this population has to offer. CHW hopes to continue – and to grow – this dynamic partnership.”

For more information on Chapel Haven West and their vocational program, visit their website. If you’d like to suggest a possible community partnership for ATC, please email us at info@arizonatheatre.org!