A local school and longtime business are combining to spearhead a workforce program to assist those developmental disorders.
QuesTECH Learning, a private school on Monroe for kids in need of special learning assistance in grades 2-12, has partnered with DayStar Creative Group for a silk-screening business to employ students and young adults on the autism spectrum.
Leisa and Ray Geoghegan, owners of DayStar Creative Group, are transitioning their established graphic design business to create QuesTECH/DayStar Spectrum. In their approaching retirement, the Geoghegans, who have always had a heart for the autistic since their daughter is a former QTL student, wanted their community legacy to be a business where young adults could learn the silk-screening business in a workplace that understands autism.
“QuesTECH was transformational for our daughter in 1st through 8th grades and a safe haven for us," Leisa Geoghegan said. "We are happy that DayStar Creative Group will become QuesTECH/DayStar Spectrum to produce t-shirts, signs, and banners. As Ray and I move toward retirement, we will assume the role of mentors and advisors. Under the umbrella of QTL, we feel confident that the business will become a great service to the community.”
QuesTECH/DayStar Spectrum will offer a safe workplace for those with autism and help them to acquire essential workforce skills at the storefront located at 2123 Justice St. in Monroe.
Store manager Crystal Rhymes said it is hard for those with autism to get work in the real world.
"People don't want to deal with them," Rhymes said. "My goal is to bring them in here and work on some of their weaknesses and get them ready to go to another job. Most of them are students but we've got a couple of adults on the spectrum too. We're just helping them fit in. Some of them never had a job before."
Rhymes is no stranger in dealing with those on the spectrum. The mother of a son who was diagnosed with autism, Branson said Rhymes will prove to invaluable to the business.
The store currently has six young adults employed. There, Rhymes said, they are learning about essential workforce skills such as adhering to deadlines, dealing with customers and preparing deliveries.
There were other options that the school could have taken to provide a workplace for those on the autistic spectrum, QuesTECH principal Kevin Branson said, but none as seamless as this opportunity.
"This is something we felt like would have easiest entry for us," Branson said. "You can get started in this business very inexpensively thanks to some benefactors we were able to buy the best equipment. I don't think anybody in Northeast Louisiana has the press like we have. Maybe a larger capacity press but not one that's automated like ours. Not one that's electronic and again, the reason for that is for kids to not have to struggle with too much."
QuesTECH Learning is a non-profit private school in Monroe with faculty and administrators certified in special education. The school provides custom-designed curricula and extensive educational therapy for students facing educational challenges.
Branson said the store is also a non-profit, with every dollar generated used to keep business running and pay employees.
"The mission of this is to get these kids on to where they can enjoy their lives and be productive and self-sufficient as much as possible," Branson said. "Walk back in another employment opportunity the next time much better prepared to deal with what they're going to face as an employers. That's the goal."
The school is hosting a grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony on June 2.
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This article originally appeared on Monroe News-Star: Monroe silk screening business to assist autistic young adults with skills