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W.Va. students, businesses celebrate work relationships

April 24, 2013|By CALEB CALHOUN | caleb.calhoun@herald-mail.com
  • Katie Delaportas is helped from the stage Wednesday by her mother, Kathy Delaportas, and Musselman High School Job Specialist Michael T. Myers after receiving recognition Wednesday in the Berkeley County Schools Work Exploration Program. The Martinsburg High School junior does a variety of jobs at Chick-fil-A, including stocking condiments.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Speaking to a crowd of more than 100 special education students in addition to parents, school officials, and businesses at the Berkeley County Schools Work Exploration Program Recognition Reception, Sallie Askin described how much it has grown since it first went into action in 2007 with just 12 students at Martinsburg High School and two businesses.

“We moved on to three high schools in 2008, and we have progressed from two businesses to 89 businesses,” said Askin, the program’s co-ordinator.

The program, which had 123 students this year and is available at Hedgesville, Martinsburg and Musselman high schools, allows students ages 16 and older to work at different businesses throughout the year for one hour a week to gain job experience, Askin said. Students younger than 16 may perform various tasks in the school for that hour.

The reception, held at the Holiday Inn in Martinsburg on Wednesday morning, recognized everybody involved in the program.

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Hedgesville High School freshman Dylan Kelly, 15, of Martinsburg, said he worked at a cash register in his school and assisted teachers in their homerooms for the program.

“I’ve been working hard, memorizing what stuff I need to do,” he said. “I think I might go do a job that involves cooking” in the future.

Musselman High School student Rachel Howard, 16, worked at Child’s Play and the I-81 Northbound West Virginia Welcome Center, just two miles north of the West Virginia/Virginia state line.

“I cleaned up for the little kids” at Child’s Play, she said. “At the Welcome Center I told people when they come in, ‘Welcome to West Virginia.’”

Rachel’s brother, Travis, 18, is also in the program. Their mother, Vanessa Howard, 39, said the program has helped their job skills and social skills because they both “know they can do work” and they “open up now and talk about it.”

Askin said later that in addition to building “self-confidence” and “self-determination” for the students, the program also helps them build connections in different businesses.

“We have had many students obtain employment through this process, and that’s not the idea,” she said.

“We are not sending them into the community to find a job, but they will find a connection, and the business will want them to stay on.”

Farmers markets, libraries, electronic retail stores and fast food restaurants all took part in the program.

Bryan Butler, who works at AT&T/Mid-Atlantic ProTel in Martinsburg, said that this was the company’s first year involved with the program and that it has been “immensely” helpful.

“The kids do some filing for us, they do some paper shredding for us,” he said. “We also try to get them up front, and they count money, and they run the computer.”

Musselman High School Job Specialist Michael T. Myers, who helped connect the students at the school with the jobs, said students had a chance to work at four different businesses this year to see what they might or might not enjoy.

“I think all of our students enjoy going to everywhere we go,” he said. “They just get excited and enthused because they’re doing something that nobody else in the school is doing.”

All students in the program were presented a T-shirt that listed the businesses involved in the program and a certificate of achievement at the reception. Businesses received plaques of special thanks.

The recognition of students was separated into those who worked in the schools, those who worked at different businesses and the seniors.

Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny P. Arvon talked about how the involvement in the program speaks volumes about the area.

“It’s about community, it’s about teamwork, it’s about all of us,” he said. “That’s what it’s about in Berkeley County.”

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