|Work Program Gives High School Students Better Employment Outlook
March 20, 2007
by Adam Martin '06
Every day several area high school students come to Davidson’s campus to get their hands dirty and learn about the world of work. These exceptional students are affected in a variety of ways—physically, mentally, or behaviorally—that challenge them in school and diminish their opportunities to attend college.
The half-dozen or so students from Mooresville High and Hopewell High School are enrolled in their schools’ occupational study programs, and prepare for successful employment in local job markets after high school by getting practical job experience with Davidson’s dining and laundry services. Their high school teachers and Davidson employees offer supervision as the students weigh meat, clean dishes, fold clothes, run the laundry press, and help with other tasks.
|Davidson's Lisa Risk enjoys working with Pati and Pati's American Sign Language translator.|
Davidson became an employer-partner when the program started about seven years ago. Yevette Peveler, the MooresvilleHigh School work-study teacher, said the program plays a crucial role in developing the students’ confidence and integrating them into appropriate places in the workforce. “At high school they get teased a lot,” she said. “But when they go to work, they are expectated to dress right and work hard like anybody else, and they don’t feel so different anymore.”
Seventeen-year-old Pati spends a few hours, three days a week, working in the kitchen at Vail Commons. Pati was born with no hearing in a rural town in Mexico. Taken out of school in Mexico at age five, she knew no formal language when she moved to Charlotte last spring with her parents and seven of eight sisters. School officials enrolled her in the work program and have since hired an American Sign Language instructor for her and her class.
“I usually just show her what to do,” said Lisa Risk, lead baker in Vail Commons who works with Pati regularly. Pati has even inspired Risk and another Davidson kitchen employee to learn sign language. “I’m struggling with it!” said Risk. “I really want to keep some signing flash cards up here at my station so I can tell her ‘good job’ and ‘thank you.’ It’s been really rewarding for all of us.”
|A student worker with dining services employees (l) Gene Graham and (r) Lori Benfield.|
Likewise, students sometimes develop strong relationships with their Davidson employee friends. Former students occasionally drop by to thank employees for their help, and talk about where they’re working now.
Dee Philips, director of dining services at Davidson, said that the program supports Davidson’s mission of service. “It’s really hard for kids with learning disabilities to find that first job,” said Phillips. “But when they work here for a while, they get some confidence, learn some skills, and can use us as references. We’ve even hired them full time for summer and permanent employment after they graduate.”
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,700 students. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently ranked in the top ten liberal arts colleges in the country by U.S. News and World Report magazine.
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Posted By: Bill Giduz