At a Community Partner Appreciation Breakfast on May 7, the Colonial School District honored area businesses who work with Emily Prager, Special Education Transition Coordinator for the Colonial School District, to offer vocational training opportunities beyond what students learn in the classroom.
"We provide meaningful lessons and simulated work environments, but these jobs are where our lessons are put into practice, mistakes are made, and life lessons are learned," said Mrs. Prager.
Working in the community
The students work up to four days a week and spend couple hours each visit.
"It gives them real life experience in the workforce, working with people from all different walks of life, and I think that helps them grow as individuals and employees," said Liz Hilderley of Crazy Aaron Enterprises.
One of the students named Clara has worked at Marshalls three days a week for two years.
"My favorite part of my job at Marshalls is folding clothes," said Clara.
A student named Dana visits Sunrise Assisted Living one day each week.
"I like working at Sunrise because I like to set the tables and restock the crackers," she said. "I also enjoy talking to the residents."
Exploring different opportunities
The businesses offer the Plymouth Whitemarsh High School (PWHS) students a variety of opportunities from volunteer vocational training to paid internships to competitive employment. The students work in offices, retirement communities, restaurants, manufacturers, retail stores, construction, and even a day care for dogs.
"I work at the Plymouth Meeting Mall," said Xavier, a student at PWHS. "I enjoyed checking the mail, and I learned how to make eye contact."
While the program is designed to benefit the students, the community partners at the businesses also grow from the relationship.
"It reminds us to be happy at our jobs, because they always come in so happy and appreciative," said Terrie Gulliver from the Masonic Village Lafayette Hill. "It reminds us what a great honor it is to have a job and to be learning something new. It just keeps it fresh for all of us."
At the breakfast, a student representative read a letter of appreciation to a community partner where they worked and then presented the business with a certificate or plaque.
The following businesses received plaques for more than 10 years of service to the program: Masonic Villages, the Plymouth Meeting Mall, Sunrise Assisted Living and the William Jeanes Memorial Library. Flocco's Shoes, Clothes and Formal Wear took home a plaque for five years of service. The others received certificates of appreciation. Those businesses included: Bed Bath & Beyond, Chick-fil-A, Crazy Aaron Enterprises, Love My Doggy Day Care, Marshalls, McDonald's, Ratoskey & Trainor and T.J. Maxx.
The event was hosted by Central Montco Technical High School (CMTHS), and CMTHS students prepared and served the meal.
If you'd like to offer vocational training at your business, please contact Emily Prager, Special Education Transition Coordinator, at 610-825-1500, ext. 1336.