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The Chicago Zoological Society was honored at an Employer Appreciation Breakfast recently, hosted by the LaGrange Area Department of Special Education (LADSE). CZS has been partnering with LADSE for the past decade to provide educational opportunities and job training experience for individuals with special needs throughout the area. These programs include Good Works, Bridges, and seasonal paid opportunities.

Good Works is a career training opportunity for individuals from four local high schools that allows them to gain leadership experience, enhance personal skills such as confidence and public speaking, and develop strong job skills via volunteer service in areas throughout the zoo (currently available in Hamill Family Play Zoo).

Bridges is a similar program for adults with special needs, in partnership with Community Support Services. Individuals who take part in either program are encouraged to apply for full-time volunteer and seasonal paid positions in the zoo when their skills and independence increase. All of these programs create a diverse league of conservation leaders throughout our region and also help CZS to build a strong connection in the community serving individuals of varying abilities.

Sarah, a Good Works volunteer, is an essential
part of operations at Hamill Family Play Zoo.

This year, CZS staff Tim Chromzack (Plant & Facilities), Jill Westhus (Hamill Familiy Play Zoo), Mark Freedlund (Hamill Familiy Play Zoo) and Debra Kutska (Conservation, Education and Training) were invited to represent CZS at the Appreciation Breakfast. Individual awards were given to the Good Works Program, the Hamill Family Play Zoo, and the Plant &Facilities Departments for recognition of participation in this year's vocational alliance programs sponsored through LADSE. Additionally, for the second year in a row, Brookfield Zoo was recognized and appreciated as a "Transitional Experience Program."

Good Works volunteer Katie
assisting at Hamill Family Paly Zoo

LaGrange Area Department of Special Education (LADSE)
LADSE is a regional organization "committed to providing a full continuum of special education services within the least restrictive educational environment and a decentralized, building-based model of providing services to students ages 3-21. This promotes a local commitment to developing a unified educational system to serve all students."

In 2009, CZS was also awarded a plaque by Oak Park River Forest High School for serving as a valued employer providing paid opportunities for students with all levels of ability.