Students learning the business ropes

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 19, 2003

On Tuesday, many area businesses welcomed some Greenville High School students into their businesses for the Community Job Shadow program, as required to earn an Alabama Occupational Diploma (AOD).

For many students, the AOD can mean the difference between earning a viable diploma that can advance them further in education, or a simple certificate of attendance.

The program is designed to help students who have some type of disability, whether it is learning, physical or mental.

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Students, who take part in the community job-shadowing program, have worked several years in preparation.

&uot;Once students enter the seventh or eighth grade, we start planning their transition from high school to secondary education, trade schools or whatever workforce,&uot; Special Education Coordinator Joseph Eiland said Tuesday afternoon.

&uot;The occupational diploma was put into place because those ‘powers that be’ in the federal government, as well as our state directors, realized that not all of our students are able to master content and the objectives for a standard high school diploma.&uot;

Students taking part in the program must earn the same number of academic credits as other students who earn a regular diploma, but they also have other things they must do.

&uot;In addition to those credits, they have to have school-based job shadowing in the tenth grade, community-based job shadowing in the eleventh grade in two or three different places,&uot; he said.

&uot;In the 12th grade, they have to have 270 hours of paid employment. It is at that time when the GHS CareerTech program picks them up in school-to-work employment.&uot;

Eiland said the program does not randomly select students for the program once they enter high school; the selection begins much earlier.

&uot;Planning for these students is not a ‘spur of the moment thing,’&uot; he said.

&uot;We start in seventh or grade with planning, and we build as we go.

They don’t automatically start on the occupational diploma route.&uot;

Eiland said, by law, all students must attempt to earn the highest diploma option possible, and then move down as necessary.

&uot;If they meet lots of difficulties or obstacles, we reconvene an IEP (Individual Education Plan) team, and we discuss the next option, which is the occupational diploma,&uot; Eiland said.

&uot;I can say that as long as I’ve been doing this, we have had 95 percent of our students who started out on the AOD leave school with a job.

That is wonderful, but more important; they leave school with a diploma. In the past, our students exited with a certificate that said they went to school for 12 years.&uot;

There are some 75 businesses in the county taking part in the job-shadowing program this year. He expressed his appreciation to the business leaders in the county and also Mike Reed, Butler County School Superintendent, for embracing the concept and for working with him in making it a success.

&uot;It is really gratifying how well this community comes together for the schools,&uot; he said.

&uot;You approach them, and when you tell them you’re working with the school, they’re ready to help.&uot;

So students will continue to job shadow for two days a week until the first week of December.