Opening Night at the Prospector Theater: “Funployment” for Adults with Disabilities

Tonight, I had the invaluable opportunity to attend the opening of the Prospector Theater, a movie theater in Ridgefield, CT, that operates under a ‘vocational-school’ model that provides gainful employment and vocational training to different-abilitied adults, including those with autism and Downs Syndrome. I am immeasurably proud of my husband, Joel Brukner, who has been the lead project manager of building this theater over the past few years.

Valerie Jensen, the creator of this program calls this type of workshop model ‘funployment’-adults participating learn not only about workingimage image image

in a movie theater, but are also provided with the opportunity to explore their passions and interests, such as graphic design, cooking, etc.

The passion, love, excitement and genuine confidence portrayed by ‘The Prospects” (those employed at The Prospector, including administrative staff) was palpable. I can still hear the words of one mother whose child is employed at The Prospector: “My daughter is a hot ticket. She is full of talents and gifts. I was always worried, as she got older, that people would see only disability, difficulty, pity. Now, because of The Prospector, she gets a weekly paycheck, has an apartment, and is brimming with confidence. As a mother, I am forever thankful.”

The message given to all of us before leaving was as follows: “Here’s the surprise. We are all prospects. We are the ones learning how very talented, unique, and invaluable each and every one of the individuals employed at this theater are. Every person who comes into this theater learns not only compassion, understanding, but respect.”

To find out more information about this wonderful program, please refer to their website: http://www.prospectortheater.org

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