Southport High School intern
From sweeping the left-behind trash of forgetful students to wiping food crumbs off of dirty tables, students from Southport High School’s Exceptional Needs Department spend some of their time giving an extra set of hands to the custodians during lunch.
These students need more than education; they need more hands-on life skills, said teacher Jody Egan, who previously worked with special needs students at Perry Meridian High before launching Southport’s Comprehensive Intervention Program, which is catered to these students.
Egan hopes that they will build valuable life skills along with a résumé to help give a future job coach ideas as to what they are interested in when they graduate.
Mary Beth Hanley, Southport’s job coach, helps the department set up places to volunteer.
The students recently went with Hanley to St. Vincent de Paul where they practiced and applied skills such as counting. They also volunteer at Gleaners Food Bank, the Roudebush Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Teachers’ Treasures, a store with free supplies for teachers.
“They can be productive citizens, and they can feel good about being productive,” Hanley said. “Instead of sitting (at) home, they’re out working and being a part of the community.”
However, in order to volunteer, the students had to pitch their skills first. After getting these places interested in letting them help, they had to show them “what they were made of.”
“We had to be salesmen,” Egan said. “(We had to) go out and just ask and see if there was anyway we could volunteer.”
Custodian Sherry Henry, who has a handicapped nephew, was excited when finding out that the exceptional needs students would be helping out in the cafeteria.
Sometimes, Henry brings in snacks for the students to brighten their day. She says she enjoys her conversations with the students and their presence. “It’s sunshine, and it just brightens up my day whenever they’re around.
“Every day during lunch, junior Daniel McDonald and other students volunteer in the cafeteria.
“It gets the job done,” McDonald said. “(It helps) learning for life … (by knowing how to) rent a home, do something or (do) chores.”
According to Egan, the students get to choose from a variety of incentives for helping out. This includes getting to play the Wii, cooking, having free time to draw or even getting to use the 3D printer.
“I want people to know that we’re not abusing them or taking advantage of them,” Egan said.
McDonald and his sister, Roseanna Loichinger, a former student of Egan’s, have been positively influenced by the program.
“Jody helped Roseanna with her application to Kroger, where she is still employed 15 years later,” Loichinger’s father said in a text to The Journal, Southport’s student newspaper. “Daniel’s experience has shaped his personality and work ethic.”
Egan has stayed in touch with quite a few students, one of which recently asked her to be a bridesmaid in her June wedding.
Two of her other previous students from Perry Meridian have also reached out to her to tell that they really appreciate what the program did for them while in high school. Now, they have jobs at a dealership detailing cars.
The program has helped Egan and the students build relationships as well as networking and employability skills to use in life. According to McDonald, he is grateful for the opportunities he has been provided.