A student at HHS helps out at the Hillsboro Senior Center Monday through Thursday in order to learn vocational skills for after he graduates from high school. He is hoping to soon get a job doing similar work.
Hillsboro High School has implemented a special program taking kids who are in special education classes and matching them up with vocational skills and internships where they can pursue their interests and build vocational skills that they can use once they graduate from high school.
“We have a curriculum that has over 300 different types of things you would do at different jobs like we have a cashier’s job or other ones. We gather data and find out their interests. So if we have a kid who doesn’t like computers, we won’t start teaching those related skills. Or if a child is scared of the cash register, they won’t want to learn how to work at the Et Cetera shop or somewhere,” said Todd Weeks, the West Program Director for the Hillsboro Middle High School.
Weeks explained how valuable his students can be in the workforce, especially in blue-collar jobs.
“Some people might not like working in the kitchen and doing dishes, and our kids love it. Some people might not like more menial tasks but our kids really come alive at it. You have to think outside the box with it,” said Weeks.
Weeks’ and the school’s desire to create these positive interactions for both the students and the businesses in the community.
“Early positive experiences in employment is the key to lifelong success.” said Weeks.
Weeks has not only worked with his students to teach them the skills they need for the workforce based on their interests, he works with business in the community to match the students with the best job for them. And it seems to be working out really well for both sides.
“We have a student who wants to work in a library after she graduates so she works with an older student who is an aide and me every day to check the books back in with the scanner. And if the scanner doesn’t work, then she knows how to enter it in. She then separates them by genre and alphabetizes them so she is learning multiple skills that she could use in jobs and in life in general,” said Janet Whisenhunt, Media Center Coordinator.
The student’s mom loves the experience that her daughter is getting.
“By listening to Ella and the things she was interested in, they were able to design a worksite that she cared about and could excel in. She absolutely loves working in the library and is developing job skills she will use after high school,” said Kimberly Jost.
And other employers who have interns are saying positive things as well.
Angie Becker, manager at the Et Cetera shop, has really enjoyed having local students help her at the shop. One currently comes in to help straighten up the shelves and put out merchandise Monday through Thursday.
“I didn’t even really have to think about it. Before I was even a manager here, I volunteered and there was one man who would come in and help along with someone who helped him focus. He liked to clean and he helped keep the racks nice and shiny. So having someone come in and do a variety of tasks helps them and us. It’s worked really nicely. The store looks better because we have students coming in,” said Becker. “As long as there are students who want to do it, we will have them.”
Another student helps out at the Hillsboro Senior Center Monday through Thursday. When asked about it, Director Brenda Moss lit up sharing about him.
“At first he was a little shy, but now he comes in and does really well. We had him helping in the kitchen first, but that wasn’t the best fit. He does our trash now and cleans our glass and he does real well with it. In fact, he does so well they are going to see if they can get him a part-time job somewhere doing that. He does pretty steady with that. I think it has really helped his confidence and he has fellowship with other people,” said Moss. “I think it’s wonderful. We had another worker a year ago and it was good, too.”
There are several other places around town that have students come out and work with them including the vet clinic and Midway Motors. Weeks is very thankful for all of the support they give the students.
And he is enjoying working with the students as well.
“If there is a feeling of the world saying no you can’t, the greatest thing I can do is build a spark of yes I can,” said Weeks.