May 24, 2012 - By Joshua Scheer, Staff WriterDuring the last school year, 15 Riverton High School special education students took part in the IDEAL Work program, learning career skills at businesses across the city.
IDEAL department chair Susan Abernathy explained that the program teaches the students, primarily juniors and seniors, basic job duties.
In their first year in the program, the students are taught interviewing does and don'ts, how to participate in job shadowing and how to put together a portfolio of their experiences.
During their second year, they are placed in actual jobs, working anywhere from two to five days a week in two- to three-hour stints.
This year, students were employed at Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers, Teton Athletic Club, Sundowner Station, Homestead Assisted Living, Community Entry Services, Aspen Park Elementary School and the high school.
Senior Chris Hoosier was employed at Wendy's.
Hoosier said he worked primarily in the restaurant's lobby, washing trays, tables, chairs and condiment counters.
Wendy's general manager Darla Knuth said she enjoyed having Hoosier work this year.
"It's helped them get out in the world," she said.
She has seen shy students learn to be conversational with customers by the end of the program.
Hoosier said his favorite part of the job was the free food and shakes.
"I really like working at Wendy's because all the people are nice," he said.
Senior Jennifer Childers worked two jobs this year, at Aspen Park and CES.
Her favorite job, she said, was at CES, because she's friends with many of the clients.
"I've been part of CES for a long time," Childers said. "I know everybody."
Her favorite part of working at the school was "getting to know the kids and helping them with their math."
"I learned how to follow direction," Childers said.
She also learned how to be mature about everything, how to be on time and how to respect her fellow employees.
This summer she plans on continuing her work at CES, hopefully earning some additional responsibility.
Jarid Stephenson also worked at CES but in the maintenance side of the operation.
He learned how to pour concrete and helped in the upkeep of CES's vehicles.
Stephenson hopes to get a job this summer at either Rocky Mountain Sport or Skaggs Auto Rebuilding.
Through the program he learned how to work with other people and handle his stress level.
Austin Chavez worked at Homestead Assisted Living, vacuuming, rolling silverware and helping with cleaning.
"I enjoyed everything about it," he said.
Homestead floor supervisor Debbie Crowder said having Chavez work for them went well.
"He works wonderful," she said.
Crowder said Chavez was great with the residents, and that he was caring.
Kelsie Wood worked as a maid for Sundowner Station.
Abernathy said she was told Wood was one of the best window washers on staff at the Sundowner.
Tyler Poffenroth cleaned and set up rooms for classes at Teton Athletic Club. Time management was one of the skills he said he took away from the experience.
Eddie Carr helped out around the career center at the high school.
All of the students were paid for their work by the employers, who were then reimbursed by the school district.
Stephenson said the money he earned helped him rediscover his love of golf. Hoosier said he bought his mother a gift for Mother's Day with his money.
Some students are assisted on the job site with the help of a job coach.
Coach Tiffani Weber said one of the joys of the job is seeing the students learn and change through their experiences.
"You can't teach them in the classroom what they learn at the job," coach Brenda Inman said.
The program has existed for 15 years, and each year different employers take part.
"I think if anybody wants to give it a try, they should," Knuth said. "They've been a treat to have."
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