Students learn life skills through Job Olympics

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Nick Crow
Friday, March 14, 2014

JANESVILLE — Terry Arneson has been volunteering for the Home Depot Kids Workshop once a month for more than a year.

So when he heard about a jobs workshop for high school students who receive special education, he jumped at the chance to volunteer.

"It teaches self-confidence," Arneson said. "I had a young gentlemen come up to me today and say he had never done anything like this before. He was eager and jumped right in. I think it's fantastic. I'm glad I volunteered today."

Between 80 and 90 high school students from Janesville, Clinton, Watertown, Beloit, Milton and Parkview lined the halls of Blackhawk Technical College Friday to participate in the first Job Olympics.

The event was put on by Cooperative Educational Service Agency 2, which serves 74 schools throughout Rock, Walworth, Dane, Green, Jefferson, Kenosha and Racine counties.

"I'm a retired special ed teacher myself," volunteer Sue Anderson, said. "I volunteered because these students have a lot of talents. This broadens their interests."

Anderson, who taught for 27 years, said most students involved were unsure of a career path after high school, and the event provided them with ideas for careers they could pursue.

"There's just so many things out there now, so this kind of gives them some ideas," Anderson said. "It helps them because they are going to be making decisions for their life."

CESA 2, with the help of more than 20 volunteers and participation by the Janesville Veterinary Clinic, Home Depot, Hedberg Public Library, Wild Birds Unlimited and Makerspace, provided workshops for students in carpentry, veterinary services, computers, the service industry and others.

"Art is my favorite thing, construction not so much," Craig student Kaitlyn Brockway, said, as she attempted to build a wooden ring toss. "The best thing is it gets us out of class."

Kristin Grender, transition coordinator for CESA 2, said the event was organized after other CESAs had success with similar events.

"We found that this helps them to transition to their future plans," Grender said. "It's good for them to think about it now."

The students were randomly assigned four stations for 30 minutes each Friday before participating in a closing awards ceremony to end the day and thank them for their effort.

"I'm hopeful this will become an annual event," Grender said. "It's good for them to get work experience so they realize that they can do something and make money."

Blackhawk human resources instructor Beth Chambers said six of her students volunteered Friday because she thought it would be a good experience for her club students.

CESA 2 provides more than 15 special education programs for students within the counties they serve.

"I'm excited to be a part of it," Chambers said.

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