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New Program expands career options

Rebecca Burk / L’Observateur / March 28, 1998

High school students in the special education program in St. James Parishnow have “something to look forward to,” said Lutcher High School job trainer Debra Laiche.

They can now look forward to employment through Community Employment Training, or CET.

CET has been in the planning stages for several months, but students were just placed in jobs in December. They go to school just as they normallydo, Gwendolyn Thomas, special education instructor at Lutcher High School said, but they take off for a few hours during the day to become more active in the community through working.

In class, Thomas said, students learn the same skills they normally would and some even make up the work they miss while they are on the job.

“Some take their work home with them,” she said.

The students don’t get paid for jobs they perform during school hours.

“It’s to help our students make their first contact with their employers,” Sandra Landry, special education instructor at St. James High School, said.”The real world as we would call it,” Thomas agreed.

Even so, five of the 11 students who participate in the CET program are employed after school and get paid for their services.

Two Lutcher High students work at Zapp’s Potato Chips packing boxes in the stockroom.

“I make boxes and I put them in the stockroom,” 12th-grader Isaiah Patterson said.

Patterson works several days a week after school at Zapp’s and gets paid.

James Lucas, also a senior at Lutcher High School, has job tasks at Zapp’s similar to Patterson but only works during school hours.

Supervisor Kevin Nealond is glad to have both students at Zapp’s.

“I think it’s a good program,” he said. “They are really doing well. I thinkthe program will help them in the future.”Students can work at more than one job to explore all possible career options. St. James High senior Shantell Greenup works four different jobsin the CET program.

Greenup is a book clerk at the St. James Library and also helps with thelibrary’s story hour on Wednesdays. She is also a kindergarten aid at SixthWard Elementary and works at Schexnayder’s Bakery in Vacherie.

Landry said that CET is “a skill-seeking program. It’s something that theycan do and write on their resume so they can get work training and job skills.”Before the students were placed in jobs they filled out a special interest survey and the teachers placed them accordingly.

Thomas said if it weren’t for the creation of the program and the cooperation of the businesses, many of the students would have no skills to get a job after they finished school.

“The businesses have been really supportive,” Laiche added.

West bank job sites where St. James High students are placed includeSixth Ward Elementary, St. James Parish Library, Gravois Supermarket,Schexnayder’s Bakery, Roy A. Breaud Oil Co., Cajun Health Club and theLions’ Building.

East Bank job sites where Lutcher High students are placed include Zapp’s, The Decor Shoppe, Lutcher Elementary cafeteria and classrooms, C.T.Boudreaux, Veron Provision Co. and the School Board Warehouse.There is only one glitch with the program, Thomas said. “Transportation isour only problem right now,” she said.

If their job site is close enough to their school or home, students walk to work. If the site is too far away they use buses, or willing and ableparents bring the students to their jobs. “The parents are reallysupportive and involved,” Landry said.

But even the transportation problem seems to be working itself out to make the CET program a success for special education students in St.

James.

“It’s been a tremendous success, and a lot of that has to do with the support of the community,” Gail Conish, educational psychologist, said.

Photo: Jean Hebert at Gravior’s Grocery

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