McDowell Technical Community College
Life Works participant works on a Christmas card design

A Life Works participant designs a Christmas card

Mayland Community College has an exciting new student project that is helping spread holiday cheer through custom Christmas cards featuring artwork by students. The Life Works project is a nonprofit service learning venture operating as a simulated small business, allowing students with intellectual disabilities to design, create, produce, market, and sell their own handmade products in order to learn and practice valuable skills and move toward greater independence. A set of beautiful cards for Christmas is the latest product the group has put together.

The Life Works project involves students from the college’s two new educational programs designed for adults with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities or similar challenges. These two educational programs, called Life Skills and Work Skills Academy, are geared toward helping adult learners broaden their opportunities for the future. Even better, both programs are completely free, with class options available in Mitchell, Avery, and Yancey Counties. Students from these classes collaborate to operate the Life Works project.

The items produced through the project are sold at local festivals and community events or donated to local nonprofit partners. Among the Life Works items created are fabric dog toys, parachute cord survival bracelets, key rings, and handcrafted fabric pumpkins. Creating the items allows students to practice critical workplace skills such as measurement, counting, following step-by-step processes, and managing quality. Students learn about the community through donating items to benefit local organizations and gain a sense of well-being from giving to others. Plus, by selling items at local events, students have an opportunity to practice customer service skills such as communicating effectively, making change, writing receipts, and operating their own, unique mini-enterprise. Any proceeds from product sales are used to fund future products and to support additional educational opportunities for these adult learners.

“I really enjoyed doing the artwork, and I feel very confident about my pieces,” says Orion Johnson, a project participant.

The group will be offering the cards for sale in packs of ten, each one featuring a unique design. The set of ten cards will be available for sale before Thanksgiving for fifteen dollars per pack. Mayland Recruiter Joyce Boone says, “Buyers are going to be thrilled with these treasures!”

For information about the Life Works project, the free educational programs for adults with disabilities, or any of the products available for sale, contact Virginia Alvarado, Employability Specialist, at 828-766-1329 or