SANDY SPRINGS, GA — Like so many, students in Riverwood International Charter School's Community Based Instruction (CBI) program were disappointed when they could no longer gather in person due to COVID-19 last spring and this fall. Before the pandemic, Riverwood's students with disabilities would attend classes at school and volunteer several times a month at area retail outlets to fold clothes, assist with inventory, and other in-store projects. Outings like this provided valuable work-based learning experience at locations such as Old Navy in Sandy Springs. But now, new in-store safety guidelines and concern for the students' health have ended this opportunity.
Hope for the students, however, came in the form of entrepreneur Jordan Reed. During the shutdown, Reed scaled up her jewelry business to fill time after being laid off from an education consulting firm. A former special needs instructor herself, Reed realized there was an opportunity for special needs students to help her make her unique earring designs. Swamped with orders, she turned to her college friend, Riverwood teacher Ginger Collins to hatch a plan to partner Riverwood CBI students with her company, Made by J Reed, to produce beaded earrings.
Soon Reed was dropping off bead kits for Riverwood students to make earrings and conducting weekly meetings to talk about their work and jewelry design. The students were overjoyed to have a work opportunity they could safely perform from home or while working face to face at Riverwood once the school reopened. Many expressed an interest in starting their own jewelry design business when they graduated. Inspired by the students' success, Reed decided to launch the Bead with Reed Project.
Through the Bead with Reed Project, students are official interns and are making jewelry for Made by J Reed. Students are making earrings and bracelets and hope to sell them independently after Thanksgiving as part of a project-based learning unit on entrepreneurship and business. To date, the class of six students has made more than 30 pairs of earrings. All proceeds are donated back to Riverwood to help fund items needed for their classroom.
"This experience has been so unique for my students to continue practicing independent work skills even while we're remote," Collins said. "They have developed skills like communication skills, initiating tasks, asking for help, problem-solving, and giving and receiving feedback from a supervisor. Even during a global pandemic, students with disabilities can develop new skills and create beauty through jewelry."
To learn more about the Bead with Reed project and Made by J. Reed, visit the website.