New Gesher Human Services Programming Helps Metro Detroiters with Intellectual Disabilities Learn Job Skills

    SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (Feb. 20, 2023) – Gesher Human Services, a nonprofit which helps metro Detroiters with barriers to employment find jobs, is collaborating with Detroit’s College for Creative Studies to offer participants in its vocational Skill Building Program the opportunity to explore varying disciplines of art in a semester-long program.

    Gesher’s Skill Building Program provides metro Detroiters with intellectual and developmental challenges vital skills to help them become more integrated into the community through meaningful volunteer and other work. The new collaboration with CCS brings participants from its program to the college one day a week to explore fields of art. In a separate collaboration with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO), participants attend the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center once a week to meet with a certified music therapist along with DSO musicians. Over the next three months, participants will learn about music as a profession, learn how to play various instruments, choose music that they would like to perform, and plan for a performance where they will be accompanied by DSO musicians in front of an audience.

    “With the CCS program, our goal is to make our participants aware of the many different careers in art and design and show how these relate to everyday life, whether it’s animation they see on television or the design on a pair of gym shoes,” explained Gesher Human Services’ VP of Vocational Services Lillie Sorrell. “With the DSO, our participants, who are often artistic and musical, have the chance to explore music in depth and determine what forms of music they enjoy most, and perhaps discover instruments they would like to learn. Everyone attending has the chance to explore career fields in art and music they might not have come across.”

    Sorrell explained that the new initiative came about after disabled adults who are attendees of a different, non-vocational program run by Gesher, were given the opportunity to join a CCS fashion design class in 2022.

    “Our Skill Building Program participants saw how much this group enjoyed their experience, and really wanted a similar opportunity, to explore jobs beyond more traditional jobs like meals on wheels and janitorial work,” she said. “We wanted to honor that request, which we are now doing with some of the best art professionals in Michigan.”

    The current format for the CCS program is that the first half of the day is spent with teachers and senior CCS students from various disciplines, where individuals get an understanding of what the art form involves and work on a related project. Types of art being showcased include fine arts, industrial design, interior design, graphic design, entertainment arts and video game design. In the afternoons, participants are enrolled in a photojournalism class, where they learn presentation and other skills by displaying photographic images they have taken that morning.

    The CCS program started in mid-January and will run through March. Currently 12 participants are enrolled who come from the Skill Building Program which has centers in Detroit and Southfield. A similar number of participants are taking part in the DSO program.

    Craig Nowak, Program Director of Creative Expressions, a multi-disciplinary arts program at Gesher Human Services, said that working in the arts had many benefits.

    “Participants are developing better hand and other motor skills, learning to express their ideas in a variety of ways and expanding their team-building skills,” he said. “Most of all, they are having a chance to learn about all the different art and music professions that are possible.”