A new program at North Kingstown High School is offering special education students a way to gain valuable work experience and important life lessons.
The program, which began in October, aims to give students an opportunity to get out of the classroom and into a real working environment with the accompanying responsibilities and prospects focused on that task. Students are required to report to work daily in the high school cafeteria alongside adult employees, often to participate in monthly luncheons for the high school staff.
On a daily basis, between 10 and 12 students from the program report to work to begin their routine. Each student is given regular tasks that they must complete, including food preparation and stocking, as well as insuring that the kitchen runs smoothly.
“When they first went in there, they were like a deer in headlights,” says Patricia Cawley, head of Food Services at the high school, “but they gain confidence.” For these students, working in this program is a great way to get first-time, hands-on experience in the workplace. “I feel like an actual employee,” says Amanda Miller, a student in the program.
“It’s humbling for the staff to help the children,” Cawley said. “We’re just trying to benefit the quality of life for the students; the more education, the better quality of life.”
The students look forward to going to work each day but they are required to stay up-to-date with their school work or they will not be able to help out in the cafeteria that day.
“It helps them to get their work done,” says Mark Williams, a teacher in the special education program.
Cawley and Williams hope to continue with this program and hope that it continues to grow, offering students opportunities for success outside of the classroom.