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They're making a connection

Washington County Job Development Program students work at HCC in the afternoons

Washington County Job Development Program students work at HCC in the afternoons

October 27, 2008|By JANET HEIM

Dustin Carr hopes one day to take more classes at Hagerstown Community College, while Joseph "Joe" Lampasona's career aspirations include being a comedian or running for president of the United States.

For now, though, Joe would be happy getting his start by taking classes in political science or history at HCC.

Both 20-year-olds expressed their career goals as they busily cleaned windows and wiped exercise equipment at HCC's Wellness Center in the ARCC.

As students in Campus Connection, through Washington County Public Schools' Job Development Program, they attend classes three mornings a week at Marshall Street School, then head to the HCC campus by bus to work in the afternoon. Two full days a week, they do custodial work at HCC's Valley Mall location.

Mike Clipp and Thomas Allison work in HCC's bookstore, doing such work as vacuuming or stocking sodas, while Heather Taddei works at the Hilltop Grill and Channing Boerstler assists in the Robinwood Early Childhood Center. Job responsibilities are rotated during the year.

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The students receive evaluations from the HCC employees who supervise them, just as they would if they were working paid jobs.

Darryl Clopper is the head teacher for the program and is assisted by Sue McAllister.

The two-year program is open to students ages 18 to 21 who have earned their certificate of attendance at their local high schools. It is one of many programs through JDP, which offers vocational training for special needs students ages 14 to 21.

Campus Connection helps support the transition of students with developmental disabilities to adult life in the community through classroom instruction and community work experiences. Clopper said they discuss realistic expectations for employment, like the requirements to become a a doctor or the president.

After two years, students can enter the Point of Transition program for a final year of training in job and life skills that will allow them to find independent employment.

"Oh, it's great. I love the kids. They're willing to try anything. Just to see the smiles on their faces when they master a task," said Danny Dell, HCC Bookstore manager.

Originally, the Campus Connection program was housed at HCC. They lost their space five years ago due to renovations to the Career Programs Building on campus and moved to Marshall Street School, said Clopper.

He said he hopes that some day the program will be able to return to HCC, because he thinks the community college setting, with peers of their age group, is important for his students.

Dustin Carr's "can do" attitude and encouragement from his grandmother prompted him to take a summer course at HCC in graphic design. He hopes to finish his degree in that field.

The students learn how to use the County Commuter and have gone together to community events at The Maryland Theatre, the downtown farmer's market and at HCC, Clopper said.

"This has been the most interesting and rewarding part of my whole experience," Clopper said.

Gael Butcher, acting principal for Marshall Street School and the Job Development Program, said in an e-mail that in addition to the programs at JDP, each of the life skills teachers at the county high schools has students placed in community-based work sites.

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