“It’s a beautiful day to be working,” Grady H. said to the car full of the Tikvah Vocational Participants this morning. The sun was shining, music was playing, and every one of the participants was ready for the day to really begin. DSC_0274

Walking up the sidewalk into Olson Memorial Library, Aaron E. looks forward to everything from getting to see the special activities that happen every day in the library, to reading the shelves. This morning there was a magic show, and for the first five minutes of his shift, Aaron enjoyed watching the magician and the roomful of kids engaged by the show. He walked back to a row of mystery books, returning to the shelves he’d left off “reading,” or double-checking for correct alphabetization. Every day, Aaron moves books that are incorrectly placed, and when certain books are hidden or in the wrong section, he brings them to the front desk to make sure they aren’t “missing” in the library’s system. His job is very detail oriented, and he’s gotten better and better at remembering where he’s left off the day before. The library is an extremely relaxed place, and Aaron’s favorite part of working there is getting to find and discover new books.


After passing the flower box and Eagle statue in the entrance of Trig’s, Shelby M., Rachel P., and Danny N., get to start their jobs for the day. Shelby and Rachel bag groceries, today at aisle four and aisle three, respectively. They smile at customers as they place items in bags accordingly. Danny works on “facing,” which means arranging the shelves and making sure all of the items are organized and easy to read. After a few weeks at the job, Danny enters Trig’s, says hello to his manager, is told which aisle to work on, and goes straight there. He takes his break from 11:45-12:05 every day, really demonstrating his own self-management.


Job Coach Ari Feldman visits the participants at Trig’s occasionally—he did more often at the beginning of the summer—but they’re so accustomed to their jobs at this point. His role is to make sure things are getting communicated properly between the employer and the participants. He’s seen a great deal of growth in all of the participants—he remembers when they would forget to bring their own snack for the morning, which has practically disappeared over the past week; they’ve all been remembering and seeking out snacks before leaving for the morning.

Avi G. started working at Nelson’s ACE Hardware a few days ago, and already knows what items are in each aisle. He had a “spectacular” day today, even helping to load ten bags of topsoil into a customer’s truck.

DSC_0282Just a few blocks away, Talia F. works at New Beginnings Child Care. Her biggest role is just being another set of hands and a friendly face for the kids. She sits with kids at lunch, helps clean up the dishes and sweep the floors, and helps them get ready for naptime. Some days, she prepares art projects, like sorting construction paper and gathering supplies, for the kids to use the following day.

At Walgreens, Austin R. helps unload totes (boxes of products) from trucks. He puts the items from the totes and shelves them, a job that really involves fine detail work in terms of ensuring that everything gets to where it needs to go in the store.

DSC_0289The Northwood’s Children’s Museum has a longstanding relationship with Camp Ramah, and a number of our campers get to experience the museum during their time at camp—Nivo interns have their service projects at the museum, they get to visit there on their yitziah (day trip) in Eagle River, and we regularly have an Atzmayim Participant working there. This year, Ari A. is working at the museum. This morning, Ari spray painted rocks that will be used for the badger maze gold mine: a children’s activity where gold rocks are hidden amongst other color rocks and stones for the kids to find. Ari regularly hides the gold pieces, and kids often take the silver spray-painted rocks. Today he was working on replenishing the supply. Ari’s favorite part about working at the museum is seeing all of the kids having a great time, their laughter, and playing with the toys, “It makes me feel good.”

DSC_0304Home of the “freshest cup in the Northwoods,” Eagle River Roasters is also the home of our Camp Ramah Coffee Blend. Grady H. works at Roasters putting labels on bags of coffee, cleaning windows, sweeping the floors, manning the cash register, and giving the occasional full-fledged tour of the building to visitors from camp. Even though he doesn’t do the roasting himself, Grady knows how all of the coffee bean roasting machines work and how many beans it takes to make one pot of coffee. His favorite part of the job is helping people. This morning he saw an older gentleman with a cane, and before the man could grab the door, Grady sprinted to open it for him.


The Tikvah Vocational Program Participants have made it to the halfway point of their jobs this summer, and the rest of the summer is filled with more opportunities for growth and just enjoying the jobs they have. As they look to the rest of the summer ahead, they’ll continue working every morning, and enjoying camp in the afternoons and evenings—making their own programs, cooking their own dinners, and spending time together off the job!

The Atzmayim Vocational Program is generously supported by a grant from the Ruderman Family Foundation.