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Now employed by Shoreline Prime Meats & Deli in Branford, Sky Bussey got his start with vocational training offered by Community Dining Room (shown here). Now, he’s hoping his story will inspire other organizations and businesses to connect with school district programs such as the one he experienced through Branford Public Schools’ ‘Access Transition’ program. (Photo by Pam Johnson/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
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By offering him a variety of vocational training, some local groups and businesses have made a huge difference in Sky Bussey’s ability to nail down a great job. The experiences have also inspired him to aim for a future career in two fields that have drawn his interest: assisting the elderly and blacksmithing.
Now, he’s hoping his story will inspire other organizations and businesses to connect with school district programs such as the one he experienced through Branford Public Schools’ Access Transition program. The program supports students with disabilities (aged 18 to 21) by sending them and their job coach to receive vocational training at work places, allowing the students to gain independent skills and build a résumé that can help them to find future employment.
After completing his school years with the Branford High School (BHS) Class of 2017, Sky went on to develop his job skills with placements at Branford-based non-profits Community Dining Room (CDR) and Orchard House Adult Medical Day Care, as well as Branford’s Blackstone Library, Branford-North Branford’s Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter, and Northford non-profit All the Kings Horses Equine Rescue. He gained additional skills during placements at Branford businesses including All Pets Club and Shoreline Prime Meats & Deli.
From 2018 through 2019, Sky was receiving vocational training with a job coach at Shoreline Prime’s North Main Street shop, working three days a week during the academic year. Then, in summer 2019, Shoreline Prime offered Sky a job as a part-time employee. He gladly accepted.
“So I’m officially a dishwasher, and they’re teaching me other things after I’m finished up with the official job,” says Sky, who generally works at the business four days a week.
“I want to encourage other businesses to open opportunities for students to come in,” says Sky’s mom, Karen Bussey. “If more companies would let the students and their coaches come in to train for a couple of hours, it would make a big difference.”
Sky initially gained dishwashing experience while training at CDR about two years ago.
“He was a great help. If Sky wasn’t here, we felt it,” says Executive Director Judy Barron.
In fact, Sky was so instrumental, Barron sought and secured a short-term grant that allowed her to hire him to join the staff, part-time, for a period of several months. It was Sky’s first paying job.
“Sky showed great enthusiasm for CDR, and I was able to employ him for some time before I lost my funding,” says Barron. “He still stayed on for a short time and volunteered, even after the position ended. Great dedication!”
Last week, Sky returned for a visit to CDR, where he met up with Barron and talked to The Sound about his hope to inspire other local non-profits and businesses to consider working with young adults like him.
“He was able to come in here and learn some daily tasks that he could have experience with for his résumé, to eventually find employment, hopefully within our community,” says Barron. “CDR takes pride in being a host spot for many of these youth with our vocational training.”
Sky, now 20 years old, is the Bussey family’s oldest child and the first adopted child of four to join them in their Branford home.
“Sky has an amazing story, from the beginning,” says Karen Bussey.
As an infant, Sky suffered a traumatic brain injury after his skull was fractured. He was hospitalized, taken into protective custody, and taken away from his birth parents in Maine. Sky was placed in the state’s foster system.
“My parents were his foster parents. That’s how we met Sky,” says Bussey of herself and her husband Erich. “My mom picked him up from the hospital when Sky was four months old. The moment I laid eyes on him, he reached out and touched my cheek. It was instant love.”
Sky’s sisters, adopted twins Haley and Marisa, joined the Bussey family next (all three completed their schooling in Branford, and were members of the BHS Class of 2017 together).
Then, two years ago, the Busseys adopted Sky’s younger brother, Thunder, after Thunder reached out to Karen Bussey via Facebook.
“He said, ‘You’re not going to believe this, but I think you adopted my brother. I’ve been looking for him,’” she recalls of Thunder’s message, adding she could not believe the luck that reunited the brothers.
“I knew Sky had a brother that was born and taken immediately into foster care, and back then I had called and said we wanted to adopt him if he was available, but they never got back to me,” she says.
The Busseys finally were lucky enough to adopt Thunder at age 17.
Living with a Disability
“One of the things is I can never remember a name,” says Sky of his disability. “But I can remember faces just fine. I never forget a face. I’ll know what a person does—like who the person is who’s in charge—because of their face. I also have a back-up,” he says, gesturing to his Smartphone.
“I’ve found that technology never fails, even if a human sometimes will!” says Sky.
He also earned his drivers’ license recently, and part of his work independence includes driving himself to and from his job, notes his mom.
On a Career Path to Follow Passions
For his part, Sky says some of his vocational training experiences have also helped him to recognize the work he’d like to have as a future career. He loves animals and working with people one-on-one—especially the elderly—and is interested in welding and blacksmithing.
While he was helping out at All the Kings Horses, “they thought Sky would be a wonderful candidate to learn horseshoeing, because that would combine blacksmithing and horses,” his mom notes.
“I just need someone to teach me how to do it,” says Sky, adding, “blacksmithing’s a dying art that should stay strong.”
His interest in working with the elderly was a direct result of his vocational training time assisting at Orchard House Adult Medical Day Care in Short Beach.
“Helping the elderly is another interest of mine. They have a lot of interesting stories,” he says, adding he finds them to be “fun” and also admires their honesty. “So right now I have my job, and I’m also trying to figure out how to get training or schooling to officially work with elderly people.”
Businesses or organizations interested in partnering with Branford Public Schools’ Access Transition program can learn more by calling 203-488-5000.
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