IMG_0500 by Miryam Bernard-Donals Rosh Atzmayim (Division Head – Special Needs Vocational Program)

Last week we had the privilege of hearing from Omer Matalon, a former Atzmayim participant who since graduating the program has held a full time job, is living independently, and has much relevant and relatable wisdom to share with our current participants. He shared with us about the transition from Tikvah to Atzmayim to full time camp staff, to a full time job outside of camp.  He talked about the challenges and learning opportunities his “real world” job experience has exposed him to and provided a lot of sage advice for our participants.

Omer told the group, “In Atzmayim I learned what it means to be a professional – how to be on time, how to talk to co-workers and that sometimes you need to do a job that you don’t feel like doing.”  He explained that these skills help him be successful on the job.

We also had the opportunity to hear from Arnie Harris, Omer’s current boss, about his relationship with Omer, and his perspective on how to get and keep a job. “I don’t think of Omer as having special needs but instead as having special gifts” said Arnie. “Omer has mentored me and others at my office on how to approach the job and life with a great attitude every day.  He has taught us that we all have special gifts and we need to work hard on ourselves to thrive within our own skill sets.”

The participants asked thoughtful and provoking questions: “How do you deal with schedule changes?” What is the most important thing to do in order to not get fired?”  “What is your favorite memory from Atzmayim?” There was a palpable energy in the room as Omer shared his experiences and his wisdom, all of us in the room physically leaning forward to soak in every word.

Since Omer’s visit we have drawn from what we learned and applied it in our everyday life.  He suggested that we respond to constructive feedback from mentors, employers or colleagues with a sincere “thank you,” since their feedback can help us learn and grow. Omer also talked to the group about the importance of prioritizing.  He revealed (to the participants’ astonishment) that he gave up late night basketball games when he was in Atzmayim in order to get a good night’s sleep for work.

We are so grateful to Omer and Arnie for talking to us, and view Omer as an amazing role model for each of us. His hard work and success have shown us that saying yes to opportunities and doing our best over the summer in Atzmayim can propel us forward towards our goals of independence.

published on July 20, 2016

Continuing its ongoing support of Ramah’s vocational programs, the Ruderman Family Foundation has granted $150,000 over three years for vocational education at Ramah California, Canada, New England and Wisconsin, and to encourage vocational education inclusion programs at other Ramah camps.