During a career that has spanned more than 40 years at The Children’s Institute, Dar Dixon has seen plenty of change. But her passion for the amazing children she helps each and every day has never wavered.
When did your career at CI begin?
I started working part-time in 1981 and started full-time at The Children’s Institute in 1984. I began my career at CI as an occupational therapy (OT) aide, then worked in both OT and PT (physical therapy), before working for The Day School. A few years ago, I shifted to my current role as a Community-Based Instruction (CBI) coach within The Day School.
What does your current role as a Community-Based Instruction (CBI) coach entail?
I work with older students—18–21-year-olds—out in the community. We go to places such as Salvation Army to help pack boxes filled with food that is distributed to low-income school districts. I drive the van to the locations and help with quality control to make sure all of the boxes contain the right materials.
We also have a partnership with Molly’s Meals and work directly with members of the local Jewish community. We pick up food in crates and then deliver the meals to people’s homes twice a week. The students learn to knock on the door, greet people, and hand food to individuals.
Additionally, we have a partnership with the Jewish Community Center here in Squirrel Hill to assist individuals with food services, especially for people who are unable to do it themselves. Our students help to greet people and clean tables, too.
How do you help the students translate the skills they learn at CI into their roles in the community?
We work closely with the OTs and PTs here at The Children’s Institute on specific job skills that will be used at each of our community-based locations. Many of the skills we develop on-site at CI are ahead of time, so the students have the necessary skill sets when they go out into the community.
What’s it been like being here for four decades and seeing so many kids over the years?
Some of the kids are taller than me now! It’s nice to get out in the community and work with these organizations to introduce our students and young adults to opportunities that are out there. Sometimes it takes a while for a student to gain a skill, but once they do, it really makes you feel good.
What things have stayed the same?
What has always been a constant is that the team here tries to be creative and think outside the box to help our students and kids. That creativity along with the willingness to share information with the therapists and teachers as a full team really stands out.
What would you share with others who may just be starting their employment journey at The Children’s Institute?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. That, and make it fun! Make it fun for our students, for our team, and for everyone.
For more information about career opportunities within The Day School at The Children’s Institute, please visit our Careers page.