Eight years after the Work-Based-Learning Program at Haslett High School started, it has grown from one student and one employer to 12 students and eight employers.
The Work-Based Learning Program, a federally funded opportunity that teaches special education students job skills while assisting them with their assigned community employer, begins during the sophomore year. Students can work up to five jobs before the end of their high school career.
Students can choose to work at the following businesses: Meijer, City Limits, Kellie’s Consignments, Gilden Woods Pre-school, Walgreens, Graff Chevrolet, Blondies Barn, Jet’s Pizza, Habitat for Humanity Resale, Brookdale Senior living, and Haslett Public Schools.
“I love how the program offers our students the soft skills you need for business,” said retired special education teacher Stacey Porritt. “Those things, no matter what job you work in, you need to learn the skills.”
Exposure & experiences
While the students are at work, they take on responsibilities within the business. Tasks such as organization and teamwork give the students a sense of independence.
“To us it’s cleaning a shoe shelf, but to them it’s like taking it apart like a puzzle and putting it back together,” said Kellie Johnson, the founder and CEO of Kellie’s Consignments. “I love being a part of this for that reason, it gives these kids a purpose.”
At Kellie’s Consignments, the students learn retail skills. They are expected to dress mannequins, interact with customers, and sort and tag merchandise. The job coaches are there to assist the students.
“I’m just there to supply support,” said job coach Colleen Smith. “We work so close with the employers, they are so grateful for the extra hands and help. This also reinforces what our kids will be doing in the next couple years after high school.
Education and rewards
For two hours out of their schedule, typically fourth and fifth hour, the students are shuttled on a bus to their designated jobs. For the last hour of the day they are shuttled back to the school for their life base skills class.
“We work on job applications and resumes,” said Brad Thomas, a special education teacher. “We work on interview skills, apartment hunting budgeting and research for post high school programs.”
Due to the success of this program, students who have graduated have received jobs. Through the Work-Based Learning Program students can access sources such as the Ingham County Intermediate School District (Ingham ISD) job search. One WBL alumnus has received a job at Michigan State University.
“They would do some schooling and then go work on MSU’s campus,” said Porritt. “With the idea of being hired by MSU.”
With heavy responsibility comes with rewards. Students receive a certificate of completion in place of a diploma. With this certificate, they can enroll into a community college or a vocational training program.
At the end of the semester, students are rewarded with a celebration. The employers are invited to their classroom where they eat treats and reflect on their experiences.