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Tulsa Tech Owasso keeping COVID-19 at bay thanks to workforce efforts of adults with developmental disabilities

Tulsa Tech Owasso keeping COVID-19 at bay thanks to workforce efforts of adults with developmental disabilities

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The Tulsa Tech Owasso campus is upholding a high standard of cleanliness during the pandemic thanks to a handful of hard-working individuals.

Staff at the vocational school recently hired on several employees from A New Leaf to regularly clean and sanitize different areas of the property in an effort to ramp up safety measures amid coronavirus concerns.

A New Leaf, based out of Broken Arrow, helps improve the lives of adults with developmental disabilities and autism. Established in 1979, the organization provides its clients with critical life skills and job training through horticultural therapy as well as community-based placement and residential services.

Tulsa Tech piloted the partnership with the local nonprofit in November and brought on five clients and a job coach as part of the program, which Campus Director Leslie Clark said has been a success.

“They (A New Leaf clients) provide consistent service, they provide quality service, they show up on time, they’ve been a great addition to our campus,” Clark said, “and they’re really the frontlines to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The hirees work around eight hours a day, five days a week, and are tasked with wiping down tables; disinfecting restrooms, stairwells and elevators; and sanitizing desks work stations throughout the school.

Chelsi Singleton, job coach for A New Leaf, monitors their progress throughout each week, and trains them up to develop new skillsets in the workforce.

“This is a big deal for our company and for these clients,” Singleton said. “It’s just really, really exciting to be able to push them just to get them to their max independence, and to really see them thrive around other staff and high school students.”

Three of A New Leaf’s five clients — Ashley, Sarah and Blake — could be found making their way around the premises to clean with Singleton on Friday, Jan. 8, which marked the end of their first week of work in the new year.

“We have the best job coach ever,” Ashley said. When asked what she enjoys about working at Tulsa Tech, she replied, “Just keeping the school safe, because for one, I get good exercise going around the school and hand sanitizing, plus keeping me safe as well.”

Sarah, when asked the same question, added, “Getting to know a lot of people, because sometimes I’m in my own home. Cleaning with (Ashley), (we) go up there and clean, the bathrooms and the stairwell; make good money here.”

Working alongside Ashley and Sarah was Blake, who enjoys spraying disinfectant through a unique gun-like contraption around the school’s downstairs seating area.

“Being here at the college … doing the spray gun,” said Blake about what he gets out of the program every week. “My dad brings me to work.”

These three clients are among 29,000 people with developmental disabilities currently residing in the Tulsa metro area, including Owasso, only 1,000 of whom are working or are actively engaged in the community, according to A New Leaf.

As such, the organization is aiming to reverse these numbers by building a largescale agricultural community, or “agrihood,” in Owasso that provides a platform for these individuals to learn and grow — with the employment program at Tulsa Tech serving as a successful starting point.

More information can be found at anewleaf.org.

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