A program at Mead High School is helping students with special needs learn life skills to enter the professional workforce when they graduate.
Students work at a balloon shop – taking orders, inflating balloons, making deliveries – and get to build their resumes at the same time.
“It allows them to choose what jobs they want to try,” explained Beth Dolezal, a program organizer. “They get to build their resumes and head out into the workforce with a resume and references.”
The shop is on the school's campus and the bright colors make it an inviting place to learn.
“I like them all rainbow color,” said one student, Dillon. He is hoping to get a job after graduation.
“I want to say hello to customers, and goodbye and come again,” he said.
Students in the program are between 18 and 21 years old and have a variety of special needs.
Those needs can present some challenges, but the students can learn special skills and become productive workers if given a chance.
It's a chance that Dolezal wants her students to have and achieve goals like anyone else graduating. She said giving up is not an option.
“I want them to know how proud of them I am, and to keep dreaming big,” Dolezal said. “Never give up.”
She believes once her kids have graduated, they stay her friend.
“This year, six of them are graduating, so it'll be…I can't do it without crying,” she said. “I get to know the families and they hold a special spot. It's going to be a tough end of the year.”
But before the end of the school year, there's the holiday season and the show must go on.
Balloons need to be delivered, and the shop teaches students how to do everything.
Dolezal said with every delivery, it's another moment she sees all the things special about her students. Not special in what they need but what they give.