Individual Presentation

First Presenter's Institution

Bonnie Brae

Second Presenter's Institution

Bonnie Brae

Third Presenter's Institution

We are hoping to have a couple of students join us. At this present time, we can not provide the names.

Fourth Presenter's Institution


Fifth Presenter's Institution




Strand #1

Academic Achievement & School Leadership

Strand #2

Family & Community


Our QAI (Quality Assurance and Improvement) department collects data on our discharged residents. While collecting data, the department noticed a sharp decline in successful employment of our positively discharged residents. For instance, in 2008, 74% of our students had a successful employment history after a 3-year discharge. However, fast forward to 2013 and that number decreased to 34%. Granted there are a number of factors that could be the result (i.e. nationwide unemployment rate), yet Bonnie Brae recognized that there is a need for a change. According to the National Employment Law Project (NELP, 2011), teens are painfully hit as a result of the overall job crisis. They are worst hit in recessions and consistently face unemployment rates that are 250% to 350% higher than those of adults. Other reasons for teen employment decline are increased competition for part-time jobs in workers over 55 and the government cutting funds that support teen summer jobs. Although figures and statistics speak for themselves, we needed to look at what we could do to improve the success rate of our boys.

Founded in 1916, Bonnie Brae Residential Treatment Facility for young men at-risk’s mission has been, “empowering youth and families to achieve small victories every day through comprehensive care and education.” We pride ourselves on fulfilling our mission, so a performance improvement team was created to investigate ways to increase the success of our residents. Through our investigation, a resounding issue became evident; our residents did not understand the value of work. We needed to find a way to create work experience opportunities here on our 100 acre campus, and in the community.

We started to take on a different approach. Nine years ago, Bonnie Brae created a collaborative program with Habitat for Humanity. Eight residents are hand-selected to join this non-traditional educational experience. The residents leave campus early every Wednesday and Thursday to work alongside and be mentored by the faithful volunteers of Habitat. The seventy-eight residents who participated in the program progressed through treatment and positive changes in behavior were noted. This experiential learning benefited our residents, but only eight residents at a time could participate.

Creating an environment to offer numerous chances to gain work experience and skills became the mission. We began offering several online certification courses, formed an application for our residents to apply for our community volunteer programs, as well as our on-campus jobs and implemented an opportunity for our residents to experience community outreach and volunteer work 5 days a week. These opportunities are offered during our school programming, resulting in a perfect integration of academics and work experience. Incorporated into each experience is the implementation of personal goals and objectives that have been developed through each youth’s soft skill assessment. The soft skills assessment help establish strengths and areas of improvement for the youth. Concentrating on 5 categories of personal skills, the teachers, mentors and boys can determine ways to strengthen each core skill.

We also began to build partnerships by reaching out to non-profit organizations in the community that would typically need volunteers. From the inception of the Work Experience Program, we have formed partnerships with close to 20 organizations in the area, including New Jersey’s largest Science Museum, Liberty Science Center, where our boys participate as exhibit experts. The experiences for our residents range from helping fix bird cages at The Raptor Trust to canoeing down the Raritan River to remove debris, garbage and tires from the bed, to helping to build homes with Habitat for Humanity. The boys are motivated to be able to contribute, energized to work, and are gratified with the instantaneous reward of completing a task.

Brief Program Description

Bonnie Brae is a 100 year old residential treatment facility for youth at-risk. Recognizing a need to implement experiential learning into our school, we have effectively collaborated and partnered with numerous community non-profit organizations for work experience. Because of this integration, our boys are prepared to successfully transition from the residential environment knowing the importance of interpersonal skills and the value of work.


After evaluating data on our successfully discharged youth at-risk, Bonnie Brae determined that we could serve our population even more by preparing our young men for the challenges they would face while becoming productive members of society. A Performance Improvement Team was established to evaluate the needs. The team’s efforts culminated in the creation of the Work Experience Program with the express purpose of teaching our guys the value of work and creating a ladder of success and achievement through experiential learning. In order for our youth to succeed, a strong emphasis is placed on soft skills, in particular, their participation in a soft skills assessment. Individualized time with staff is spent reviewing the categories integrity, responsibility, self-management, sociability and self-esteem on the soft skills assessment and preparing personal goals and objectives. Our boys are reassessed after six months. Reassessment outcomes have shown an increase in our population’s probability of success when actively involved in the Work Experience Program.

The Work Experience Program further gives our youth at-risk the opportunities for achievement by enabling them to become certified in the National Restaurants ServSafe® Food Handler, CareerSafe® Safety Awareness and Cyber Safety, and the National Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). These certifications provide a tangible certificate and sense of accomplishment to our boys that they can carry with them into the community.

Ultimately, it’s in the community that we want our guys to be the most successful. With the knowledge and experience they can gain on campus, our kids have the opportunity to join with our community partners. Through volunteer efforts they learn not only to deploy the soft skills but to also give back to those less fortunate then themselves, with non-profit organizations.

Our presentation will include a hands-on activity and participants will receive a copy our Work Experience application that our youth at risk must complete in order to participate in our off-ground community volunteer activities, a sample of the soft-skill assessment, a sample of the John Holland’s RIASEC hexagon that helps determine personality types that coordinate with careers and valuable information to start a Work Experience Program in their schools.


Through the use of a nationally recognized Soft Skills Assessment, our staff are able to work with residents to identify strengths and weaknesses in the categories of integrity, self-esteem, self-management, sociability and responsibility. Staff work with the boys to create individualized goals and objectives based on the findings. These personal goals and objectives are emphasized while the youth are working in the community. During a six month reassessment, our data has shown a substantial increase in the probability of success, and our preliminary data has shown a decrease in the number of incidents among those actively involved in our community volunteer program.

We received a Perseverance Partner Award and a Community Partnership Award from Habitat for Humanity, Classroom Highlight of the Month from, an Innovation in Special Education Award from the New Jersey Board of Educators, and a nomination by Raritan River Central Jersey Stream Team for the Rutgers University Stewardship Award. We have been invite to speak at The American Association for Residential Centers Conference in New Orleans and The Association for Residential Centers Conference in Chicago.

Biographical Sketch

Sharon Singleton, M.S.

Structured Learning Experience Coordinator

Originally from the public school system, Mrs. Singleton has entered her 11th year at Bonnie Brae Residential Treatment Facility. Realizing quite quickly that the residential setting was going to be totally different from a public school, Mrs. Singleton has sought out ways to expand the experiential learning for Bonnie Brae residents through community service opportunities. Mrs. Singleton earned her teaching certifications (Elementary, English, Special Education) from Centenary College, her Masters of Science with a Specialization in Teaching and Learning from NOVA, her Applied Behavior Analysis Certification from Arcadia and her New Jersey Supervisor's Certification from Centenary College.

Jason Bossart

Manager of Operations

Jason Bossart is the Manager of Operations at Bonnie Brae. He oversees Bonnie Brae facilities both on campus and in the community. Recognizing a need to enhance work experience for residents, Bonnie Brae formed a Performance Improvement Team. As a member of this team, Mr. Bossart and his colleagues investigated ways to advance the work and employment opportunities for the youth at Bonnie Brae. As a Co-Leader of the program, Mr. Bossart engages youth in projects throughout the Bonnie Brae Community and provides them with employment across the 3 Operations Departments (maintenance, food service and support services.)

Prior to joining Bonnie Brae, Jason worked with non-profits designing and constructing a quarter million square feet of facilities. Jason has also served as a Board of Director, Executive Officer and President of the Metropolitan Builders and Remodelers Association (NAHB). Mr. Bossart is a graduate of The George Washington University.

Keyword Descriptors

Community Integration, Leadership, Success, Work Experience, Soft Skills, Cross Departmental Collaboration

Presentation Year


Start Date

3-7-2017 8:30 AM

End Date

3-7-2017 9:45 AM


Mar 7th, 8:30 AM Mar 7th, 9:45 AM

Teaching The Value Of Work Through School and Community Integration


Bonnie Brae is a 100 year old residential treatment facility for youth at-risk. Recognizing a need to implement experiential learning into our school, we have effectively collaborated and partnered with numerous community non-profit organizations for work experience. Because of this integration, our boys are prepared to successfully transition from the residential environment knowing the importance of interpersonal skills and the value of work.