Colonie Center, South Colonie schools establish vocational training center for students with special needs

COLONY – Colonie Center Mall has partnered with the South Colonie School District to provide a unique vocational training and enrichment program for students with special needs.

Colonie Community Connection – a work-based initiative that focuses on developing broad, transferable skills for success both in and out of the classroom – was unveiled Tuesday at a celebratory ribbon cutting in the new mall class space.

“We are thrilled to celebrate the success of our students and faculty who have been participating and leading this program since the fall,” said South Colony Superintendent David Perry. “We continue to be grateful for the partnerships we were able to establish with many Colonie Center businesses during the first half of the academic year and now that we have been able to put the finishing touches on our classroom space.”

The Colonie Community Connection work program will provide students with opportunities for career exploration and foster independence while building relationships in the community.

Boscov’s, LL Bean, Christmas Tree Shops, Sports Zone, PCX Apparel are among the retail stores working with the district. Students will complete an internship in retail stores and after completing a certain number of hours of training, they will be eligible for a paid position.

“We are thrilled to partner with the Colonie Community Connection program.” said Colonie Center general manager Jeff Law. “This is a unique program that offers these students the opportunity to learn both in the classroom and in the business world. Welcome to Colonie Center!”

Each student in the Colonie Community Connection work program participates in academic activities in the classroom and then applies the knowledge and skills learned to real-life situations.

Colonie Community Connection teacher Deirdre Locke said creating opportunities outside of the classroom is “a win-win situation” for the school community and business partners.

“Most importantly, it builds our students’ ability to become quality employees and citizens in our community,” she said,


The program complements another new Colony Central High School initiative known as the PAES Lab.

Created in 2020, the Practical Assessment Exploration System was designed to help students develop the skills needed to find employment in today’s economy. The lab can help assess a student’s competitive work potential and level of interest, while simultaneously exploring various jobs, using real tools, and developing appropriate work behaviors.

Special education students become proficient in career areas such as consumer service, construction, computer technology, business marketing, and production. The PAES lab can potentially help prepare students for the Colonie Community Connection program at the Colonie Center Mall.

The district is currently accepting additional partners within the Colonie Center to participate in the program.

Milton S. Rodgers