JCCA’s Compass Project helps young people on the Autism Spectrum (or with other learning differences) make a successful transition from high school or college to the workplace and independent adulthood. Young adults on the Autism Spectrum are often challenged by such tasks as finding and keeping a job, learning to socialize and make friends. This summer, JCCA placed many interns in jobs; Cara, a cheerful 17-year-old on the Autism Spectrum, was one of them.

“Compass staff really focused on Cara’s interests,” her mother Ellen states. “They spent a lot of time talking with her and trying to find just the right fit.” And it looks like they succeeded. Cara loves flowers and photography. She learned how to create floral arrangements at a florist shop, how to use a tripod at a photography studio and made new friends at the TJ Maxx stockroom. It has been a stimulating and productive summer for Cara, and she has changed because of it.

Her employers agree. Lia and Tracey, the owners of Westbury Floral Designs in Westbury, N.Y., said, “Cara learned a lot from how to arrange flowers and how to put customers’ orders into our computer system. It’s been a pleasure having her with us.”

Alex Wolff, of Alex Wolff’s Portrait Shoppe of New York, concurs. “Cara has a great attitude and an artistic mindset. It is very rewarding to see her gain new skills and express herself in photography. Cara adds, “One of the things I learned in working with Alex is that I need a real camera. The photos I take on my phone are not professional quality.”

Her mother says, “Cara has become a different person as a result of her internships. I have never seen her happier. She is thriving — she is out in the world and she’s doing great.” According to Cara, “This summer taught me many new things and I have a new friend and more confidence in myself.”

For more information about The Compass Project, contact Valerie Rosen, Director, at rosenv@jccany.org