Helping People to Thrive

Monday, October 19, 2015


Laura, a student who participated in Thrive Career Academy, accepts her certificate from
Martin Rudd, Executive Officer/Dean at UW Fox Valley during the 2015 graduation ceremony.

Contributors: Susan Perri, Marketing and Communications Assistant at United Way Fox Cities, Betsy Borns, Rehabilitation Service Manager at Valley Packaging Industries and Martin Rudd, Executive Officer/Dean at UW Fox Valley Campus

This summer, staff from United Way Fox Cities had the privilege of celebrating with the first graduating class of Thrive Career Academy, a new program of Valley Packaging Industries, sponsored in part by a $100,000 grant from United Way Fox Cities. The seven graduates had just completed 12 weeks of classes in preparation for their new careers.

Thrive Career Academy was designed to help individuals with disabilities, or better put, unique abilities obtain and sustain employment in the community. Betsy Borns, Rehabilitation Service Manager at Valley Packaging Industries explains, “Thrive Career Academy helps people with unique abilities overcome some of the barriers that often impact their job success in the community. Knowing appropriate topics of conversation at work, how to take direction or criticism, or how to ask for help, are just a few examples of the focus points we practice through role playing in the classroom.”

Courses are taught by Thrive Career Academy Instructors at the University of Wisconsin - Fox Valley. Having the campus host the program means a lot to the students who may otherwise not have a college experience. Laura, a student in Thrive Career Academy said, “I love hanging around at college with the college students at UW Fox.” Martin Rudd, UW Fox Valley Campus Executive Officer/Dean shared his thoughts about their new partnership, “It’s been our pleasure and honor to serve as a host site for the Thrive Program at UW-Fox Valley. Embedding the students’ classroom and work experience into the heart of the campus has enabled all of us to see them grow in their confidence and abilities.”

After classes are complete, each student is placed into two 6-week unpaid internships based on their interests and skill levels. At the conclusion of the internship phase, the placement team at Valley Packaging Industries assists students in obtaining and maintaining employment in the community.

During the graduation ceremony, the importance of the program was evident in the wide smiles of the graduates, proud clapping from family, friends and supporters, and unbridled enthusiasm of the program coordinators. Paul, a student in Thrive Career Academy sums it up best, “Thrive is really fun, and it helps me to be a better worker.”

Your gift matters. This grant was possible thanks to your ongoing investment in United Way Fox Cities. Together, we can continue to build a stronger, more caring community for everyone. Thank you!