Students of the Project LIFE Program and local business owners Lisa Raimone and Simone Zitouni
Students of the Project LIFE Program and local business owners Lisa Raimone and Simone Zitouni

The Project LIFE (Learning is For Everyone) program of North Rockland High School has teamed up with local businesses, Simone’s Cleaners and Yo2Go of Garnerville, to teach students with developmental disabilities real life job and people skills. These achievements were celebrated at noon on Wednesday, May 29 at Yo2Go.

The group of students in the Project LIFE program is the same group that created the “End the R-Word!” video publicized in March. The class teacher, Gina Tedesco, said students in the program are given the opportunity to have hands on vocational training within their community.

Simone Zitouni of Simone’s Cleaners and Lisa Raimone of Yo2Go are two business owners in the community who welcome these students with open arms, teach them life skills and appreciate their hard work. “Their enthusiasm is amazing,” said Zitouni, who works with the students as they learn to collect the dry cleaning of teachers and staff within their school, ticket and price the clothing, count money and return the clothing back once it is cleaned.

Raimone has students who help clean Yo2Go. She states, “They take their jobs very seriously. They are hard workers and enjoy this better than a classroom.” It is important for students with developmental disabilities to be in their own community and help local businesses, which Tedesco said are hard to find.

This class of nine students have a choice as to where they want to work and they take turns rotating between different places. Nicole Hill is a senior in this class and really enjoys her time working at both Simone’s Cleaners and Yo2Go which will help her after graduation.

Francesco Vitello’s first year in the Project LIFE program has already helped him grow and his mother Myriam Salomon states that she, “see[s] progress in his social skills everyday.”

These students with disabilities are polite and friendly children that are very appreciative of their chance to gain firsthand experience in their community and to learn some form of trade. The luncheon held this past week commemorated their hard work this school year where they spent one day a week out in the world developing their people skills as well as learning business etiquette.

While it is unfortunately difficult to find businesses willing to work with individuals who have developmental disabilities, Tedesco is trying to increase the program to two times a week next year. With the help of businesses like Simone’s Cleaners and Yo2Go, the Project LIFE program will continue to be successful in helping students with disabilities who are more than capable of being dedicated, hard workers.