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Student takes pride in his work

February 01, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Martinsburg High School student Eric W. Miller's actions speak much louder than his few words.

"Nothing is beneath him as far as work," said his special-education teacher, Gerry Suders. "Things that other kids would turn up their nose to -- not Eric."

Whether cleaning trays in the cafeteria or picking up trash around the sprawling campus along South Queen Street, Miller is eager to pitch in and help out, Suders said last week.

"He wants to work desperately," Suders said.

The 16-year-old sophomore takes part in Berkeley County Schools' fledgling Work Exploration program, an initiative for special-education students that exposes them to various job experiences to prepare them for life after high school.

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"He would rather work physically than do anything," Suders said of Miller's motivation. "There's not a job he won't do. He will volunteer for anything."

Miller usually is smiling while doing his tasks, except when it comes to classroom studies, Suders said, laughing.

"He does not like academics -- at all," she said.

Yet, Suders said she has never had a more obedient student in her 34 years at Martinsburg High School.

"He will never question someone in authority asking him to do something," Suders said.

School security guard Charlie Cline said Miller has helped him at athletic events and is very conscientious about the job he does.

"He does a great job and there's not a day that goes by that he does not come and talk to me, and I don't go talk to him," Cline said.

"He asked me (Friday) if I was coming to the game," Cline said. "He said 'I'm comin' to the game tonight' and when he comes to the game ... he'll probably find somebody and help them do something."

Miller calls Cline "gator man" because he rides around campus on a green John Deere Gator utility vehicle as part of safety and security patrols.

"Eric and I are friends," Cline said.

When asked which job he preferred on Friday, Miller said he enjoyed being in the cafeteria, where he has worked for the last three months on a regular basis, according to head cook Linda Souders.

He helps with stocking when delivery trucks arrive, scrapes trays, runs the dishwasher, puts clean dishes away and does other tasks as needed, Souders said.

For the short amount of time he's worked there, Souders said Miller has been doing a good job and gets along with the kitchen staff.

"They're good to him," Souders said. "You should have seen him at Christmastime. We take care of him."

"He's a great kid," Suders said.

She has no doubt he will be able to land a job after high school.

"He won't take a break, he won't stop, he will do it," Suders said.

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