Louise Kebort directs the Vocational Services Department of the Starview Adolescent Center in Torrance, California. Torrance is a town "on the beach, about 20 miles or two and a half hours south of Los Angeles," said Louise with a chuckle. Starview is a private, 56-bed, lockdown residential facility that provides medical, special education, and rehabilitation services to "very troubled young people."
Magellan, a career assessment product by Valpar International Corporation of Tucson, has been the centerpiece of the vocational evaluation program at Starview since shortly after Louise's appointment. "The focus of the program is on the real world. It's a reality check for them. Once they're 18, they're on their own, and they really need to know what to expect and how to get along. Magellan is perfect for that. The students tend to be very visual learners. They take the surveys and see right then and there on the color graphs what their strengths are and how they stack up to the requirements of the jobs they'll be going for. All their lives they've been told what they can't do, how they don't have anything to offer. Seeing proof of their capabilities is good for their self-esteem. They also really like the videos that go with Magellan."
Louise created the brand new Vocational Services Department at Starview about 18 months ago as its first director. The young department has two staff members besides Louise - another vocational counselor and a job coach. Together they serve about 110 clients per year, providing full vocational assessments, mainly to the 16 and 17 year olds, for about 60 of them.
Magellan is the central component of the evaluation. The students spend a total of between five and eight hours with it. Louise monitors the activities, but the students arrange the sequence of Magellan activities themselves. "I was thrilled with the sound (audio instructions)," said Louise. "It makes it much easier for the students to understand the instructions."
Once the students have gone through Magellan's surveys and exercises, they begin the occupational exploration process. "They really like doing the exploration," said Louise. "Making their five top picks. And the colors on the bar graph make it very clear where their strengths are compared to the jobs they're looking at. They like that, too."
Louise is a California native, born and bred. She earned her master's degree in Counseling, with a Vocational Rehabilitation specialty, from California State University at Sacramento in 1990. At the time, she was with Goodwill Industries of Sacramento, where she'd worked since 1988. It was at Goodwill that she'd become acquainted with Valpar through the work samples, which were a key element of Goodwill's evaluation program. So when she attended a WorkAbility conference in Sacramento a few years ago and saw Valpar's booth, she made it a point to check it out. When she did, she was introduced to a new product called Magellan.
Starview's clientele are youngsters under 18 who have very serious problems. Many of them are in legal trouble, and Starview is an alternative to incarceration. At 18, as legal adults, the students (as Louise calls them) must leave Starview and make their own way in the world-ready or not. Because of strict confidentiality regulations, no further contact with the students can be initiated by Starview or its staff, so when Louise's clients turn 18 and leave, she usually loses all contact with them. Occasionally, however, a former student/client will contact her. "I really enjoy hearing from them," said Louise. "It's pretty exciting when they call...to hear that they're okay and doing well. Unfortunately, it doesn't often happen."
The students all have been diagnosed with serious emotional/mental illnesses that run the gamut from depression to full-blown psychosis. All of them have suffered abuse of one kind or another throughout most of their lives, including neglect, and emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. In short, they are youngsters who have experienced the worst society has to offer and they show it. "Their average academic grade level is third," said Louise. "Many can't read at all. Very few will ever earn a high school diploma or GED. That's simply not a realistic goal. And time is critical here. We try to concentrate on the younger ones because with them, we might have time to accomplish something really important. With those close to 18, it's hard to do much before they have to leave except for the basics."
Louise uses Magellan results in two main ways. First, she sees to it that the Starview staff who work with the students get a one-page summary of the results pertinent to the services they provide. For example, the students' therapists get a summary of the students' job picks and key strengths for use in counseling, and the students' teachers get a summary of the curricula and classes the students need to take to accomplish their goals.
Louise also prepares a "portfolio" of Magellan results to be provided as needed to agencies working with the students in the future, after they leave Starview.
The daily schedule of the teenaged residents is full and very tightly arranged. They have only one hour of free time per day. All other time slots are filled with some sort of scheduled activity. They attend school on site, go to counseling sessions, and attend Louise's vocational program, which includes working in various job simulations. Most of the students have never had working role models their parents never had regular jobs - so Louise stresses that the simulations are a very important source of much needed information about the real world they're about to enter.
Louise and her staff have set up a number of the job simulations, including gardening, food service, house-keeping, and others. Just as actual employees would, the students receive their own paychecks, which are made possible through funds supplied by a grant Louise got from the federal-state WorkAbility program. The paychecks add an element of realism that helps emphasize the coming facts of life the youngsters will soon encounter in the world of work. The students are taught how to budget and manage their own money. They are taught basic work survival skills, such as how to behave with supervisors and co-workers, how to dress, how to behave appropriately around others, personal hygiene, and so forth.
Starview is funded by a combination of fees, grants, and contracts with county agencies. Its parent company, Sub-Acute Treatment Adolescent Rehabilitation Services, or STARS, is a growing California-based organization that currently operates a total of eight facilities. "Magellan has worked out real well for us. Starview's parent company is planning to add the vocational program to two of its facilities to meet the rapidly growing needs. And there'll be a Magellan in each one of them."