SALEM - Students learning valuable job lessons for life and the community members teaching them at job sites both shared the stage Friday at a luncheon for the Community Job Skills Training Program.
The event was hosted at the Salem Golf Club by the Columbiana County Educational Service Center to honor the students with disabilities who take part in the work study program and to recognize the 17 community partners who open their doors as job training sites.
"I applaud all these people who make this experience possible," CCESC Transition Coordinator Susan Wenderoth said.
Brandon Votaw of Leetonia holds a Giant Eagle shirt given to him by the Columbiana County Educational Service Center as congratulations for landing a position at the Salem store. A student in the ESC Transition class, Brandon learned job skills at the store through the ESC’s Community Job Skills Training Program for students with disabilities. At right is Transition Coordinator Susan Wenderoth. Brandon and other students in the program and their community worksite partners were honored during a luncheon Friday at the Salem Golf Club. (Salem News photo by Mary Ann Greier)
Community partners honored included Burger King, Das Dutch Haus, Dutch Village Inn, Pizza Hut, Sparkle Market and Rite Aid, all in Columbiana, Common Ground Church in North Lima, First United Methodist Church in Leetonia, and Rite Aid, First Christian Church, Giant Eagle, Hannah E. Mullins School of Practical Nursing, Kent State University, State Support Team Region 5, Salem Community Center, Salem Community
Hospital and Salem Public Library, all in Salem.
The program started in 1991 with Salem Community Hospital as the initial site and has continued to add local businesses and faith-based organizations to the list as places where students in ESC classrooms can go out into the world and learn job skills in preparation for work.
Wenderoth said ESC personnel take the students in small groups of no more than eight to a site every Tuesday for three hours for a nine-week period, then they rotate to another site every nine weeks during the school year.
"The idea is to give the kids as many experiences as possible," she said.
The program covers high school students in grades nine through 12 in two ESC multi-handicapped classes at Salem High School and one at Columbiana High School, along with a junior high multi-handicapped class at Salem Junior High School and a multi-handicapped class at Leetonia Middle School. The ESC Transition class of students with handicaps from age 18 to 22 headquartered at Kent State University Salem City Center also participates.
Wenderoth said it's an important program because students can learn skills in the classroom, but can't always transfer those skills to the real world. It's also difficult for them to find jobs on their own.
The program gets a lot of help on that front from Shirley Bowald, a vocational counselor with the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation who is housed at the ESC in Lisbon for the Vocational Rehab Partnerships program known as VRP3. She works with the students with job coaching and represents them with possible employers. She works with students as they're transitioning from school to life.
Wenderoth said some of their students have actually garnered jobs through the program, including one who was hired at the hospital and has been there for a long time. During the luncheon, they honored Transition student Brandon Votaw of Leetonia with the gift of a shirt from Giant Eagle because he landed a job at the store based on his training through the program. He said he loves the job.
He goes to work in the morning and takes a CARTS bus from the store to the KSU Salem City Center for class.
Students from the Transition class and the three high school classes all made presentations during the luncheon, talking about what they liked about working and thanking the people at the sites where they work.
Evelyn Hall from the Leetonia First United Methodist Church said the church volunteers enjoy having the students come to help.
Jimmy DiCross, a student who trained at the hospital and also bagged groceries at Giant Eagle talked about his experience and said getting a $2 tip from a store customer "was a nice surprise."
Wenderoth praised both the students and the ESC staff for their work in the program, noting the students may not move at a fast pace, but they do the job right.
"They sell themselves in a minute - all I have to do is make sure the door's open," she said.
To contact Wenderoth about the program, call 330-424-9591 ext. 184.
Mary Ann Greier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org