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By Jimmie Earls
Sun Staff Writer
It’s one thing to work your way through college, but to work your way through high school? That’s the goal of the JOBS (Job Opportunities Build Success) program at Washington County High School.
An awards luncheon was held May 21 at the Springfield Opera House to honor the students in the program and to recognize the local businesses who provide employment for them.
“The goal is to end their senior year with employment,” said Lois Noel, the JOBS coordinator at WCHS. “So when they leave high school, they don’t have that spell where they have nothing to do. A lot of them need a little extra help and extra encouragement, and that’s where I come in.”
A list of sophomores who might be eligible for the program is given to Noel, who notifies the students’ parents that their child might be eligible. A counselor from the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation determines acceptance. The student then starts the program in their junior year, entering the evaluation stage.
“A student needs to have an individual education plan in their student file,” added Noel. “We work with juniors and seniors. The first year, we take the juniors to job sites and we explore different possibilities. I try to match up academics with the job sites. The senior year is the training phase. I like to see them start the school year with a paid position.”
Noel tries to start every senior at the beginning of the school year with a co-op position that allows them to leave school if they have a drivers license and travel to job sites.
“The kids love going to the different job sites,” added Noel. “They make friends with the people they work with, and they decide from the different sites what works best for them.”
The program is federally funded through vocational rehabilitation services.
“It’s a reimbursed program that is federally funded,” Noel said. “The school district puts up a percentage and then I send in billing to voc-rehab each month, and they reimburse the school district.”
The luncheon ended with drawings for door prizes provided by the different employers.
Since Noel’s involvement with the program since 2000, dozens of students have had their first taste of the working world through the JOBS program. In 2000, five out of six participating high school seniors had a job at graduation, paying anywhere from $5.15 to $6.00 per hour. In 2009, two of the three graduating seniors held a job at the time of graduation, paying $6.68 to $10.00 per hour.
The JOBS program has built a solid foundation over the years, one that helps the students build their own foundation as they prepare for life after high school.