Several years ago, finding a competitive, rewarding career was an extremely difficult task for those who were blind, visually impaired or physically disabled. Today, organizations exist that help these individuals obtain successful careers in many different fields. One such organization is the Statler Center, which is a program of the Olmsted Center for Sight.
The Statler Center was founded in 1999 by Ronald Maier, president of the Olmsted Center for Sight, with the initial objective of making it the leading training and employment opportunity center for blind, visually impaired and physically disabled individuals. The intention was to focus on careers in the hospitality and hotel industry. The National Statler Foundation agreed to help fund the center and it took off.
The overall goal of the Statler Center is to provide job-training programs for individuals with visual impairments or physical disabilities. The program helps them attain careers in fields such as hospitality, customer service, contact centers, financial and medical offices, transportation, and communications. They employ qualified individuals who have been extensively trained in working with the visually impaired and physically disabled. Students of the program have access to modern facilities, hands-on work experiences and follow-up advisement on career choices. In addition to the skills required in their field of interest, they also learn general professional skills, such as resume writing and public speaking.
The Statler Center has helped those who have visual and physical impairments achieve personal growth and reach their goals for education, leadership and employment. One of the Statler Center’s success stories was Kevin Mitchell, who graduated in 2002. Mitchell, who was the guest speaker at the Statler Center’s 10th Anniversary and 34th Hospitality class graduation, was given the “Outstanding Graduate Award” for his work at the Crown Plaza in Albany, NY as a PBX switchboard operator.
Pearl Arnold, of the Statler Center’s first graduating hospitality class in 1999, was another student who benefited greatly from the time she spent there. “I was in the very first class of the Statler Center and graduated in December 1999,” Arnold said. “Within a few months, I was hired at the Adam’s Mark Hotel and have been working full time ever since. The Statler Center not only challenged me academically, but also gave me the self-confidence, skills, and support to do my job.”
The Statler Center is certified by the New York State Department of Education as a proprietary business school. It offers its students two different curriculum modes. The ten-week curriculum focuses on training for careers in hospitality, while the seven-week program is geared towards customer service jobs. Johnson & Wales University worked collaboratively with the Statler Center to develop these programs. Students of these programs become computer literate and prepared to work in hotel operations, front office positions, sales, marketing and customer service.
“I came to Statler as an unemployed and a not up-to-par-with-my-skills person,” said Maria Heinlein. “STEP training fine tuned my skills and introduced me to state-of-the-art software being used in the world of customer service. All this gave me the confidence and skills I needed to look for and secure employment.” Heinlein now works as a relay operator for Sprint Corp. and works for communication services for the Deaf and USA Relay.
According to Heinlein, the Statler Center was unique in its ability to reach individuals with varying levels of experience. “One of the things that amazed me about Statler’s classes is that everyone in the class came to the table with different skill levels,” she said. “The teachers were able to keep everyone working at the same pace.”
The Statler Center is located at 1160 Main Street. For more information, visit their website or call 716-882-1025.
photo: Statler Center Staff