IOW students learning the ropes from 26 businesses

Published 9:11 am Wednesday, March 30, 2011


WINDSOR—Windsor Hardware and Supply is one of 26 local businesses preparing youth for the future by participating in the Isle of Wight County Schools Job Coaching Program.

“It’s a win-win for us,” said Tammy Edwards, owner of Windsor Hardware. “We would be sad if they told us the students would not be back, especially in the summer and during holidays.”

Edwards would like to see more businesses involved.

“The businesses that get involved get so much back from what they put into the program,” she said.

Kenny, whose last name was not given due to confidentiality created by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, was one of the first students involved in the program. Today, he’s employed with Windsor Hardware as a warehouse associate in the lumber yard.

“Kenny is a perfect example of what this program is all about,” Edwards said.

The program for students who want on-the-job experience by volunteering at businesses is sponsored by Transition Services.

Currently enrolled in the program are six students from Windsor High School and 21 from Smithfield High School.

IOW Job Coach Deborah Ross supervises students on the job. On any given day, Ross visits up to 20 businesses and is proactive in placing students where they fit.

Businesses sign a contract each year for students to return. Because of time constraints, students are limited as to what they can do.

“The students learn skills that allow them to become marketable upon leaving high school,” Ross said.

“The goal of the program is to teach job skills, how to apply for jobs, work readiness, working under supervision, industry standards, stamina to work a full workday, initiative, problem-solving, retail skills, just to name a few,” added Ralph Freeman, special education compliance officer.

Terri Jones, a Windsor Hardware employee and Virginia certified horticulturist, works with students. Jones plans each day’s activities; the other day projects included measuring onions, separating the bad from the good and placing them in bags for sale, and creating an outside display of trees and bushes. Some of their other projects include cleanup, grooming and watering plants, working in the lumber yard and storeroom, and shifting and creating new displays.

“We once had a student working with us whose favorite chore was grooming the plants, and she got really good at it,” Jones said. “She now works in a florist using those skills she learned while working with us.”

“This program is wonderful,” she added. “It teaches kids a lot about working for businesses. I enjoy the extra help, couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Jesse, a ninth-grader at Windsor High School, is in his first year of the program. He prefers outdoor projects because it gives him practice working with his dad in the landscaping business.

Cameron, a sophomore at Windsor, also would rather work in the lumberyard; one of his hobbies is weightlifting, and lifting the lumber gives him a workout. Cameron has been in the program for two years.

Students Brittany and Brittney, both seniors at Windsor High School, enjoy working in the program. Brittany has been with the program for 3 years, Brittney, 4 years.

Dennis, who is also a senior at Windsor High School, has been with the program for at least three years.

With a sense of personal pride, Jones boasted of her students, “Some days the kids come in to us in not the best of moods, some days I’m not always in the best of moods, but by the time they leave, we’re all happy. They leave with a smile and pride in their step.”

For more information on the program and how to get involved, call Tammie Rollins-Hines, director of special education for Isle of Wight County Schools, at 365-1616.