Wilmot student Robert Steadman cleans a tabletop at Hampton Inn and Suites in Burlington (Submitted/The Report).

Wilmot bolstering student job skills

By Jason Arndt
Staff Writer

At Wilmot Union High School, three students with disabilities are bolstering their vocational skills, thanks to partnerships with area businesses.

Brian Hopkins, special education teacher, said the partnerships with each business helps students improve their functional skills and prepares them for life after Wilmot.

“This is the first year we have had kids out in the community working,” he said. “We only have three students out doing that, but next year, we will have all students 18-21 working.”

The school holds partnerships with Hampton Inn and Suites in Burlington, Antioch Pizza Shop in Paddock Lake, along with Piggly Wiggly in Antioch.

School officials supervise students as they are working.

Hopkins reports the three establishments have been accommodating and helpful to the students who complete tasks, like cleaning, finishing laundry, maintenance and upkeep.

In addition, at Antioch Pizza Shop, a student is learning how to cook while another runs the cash register alongside a Piggly Wiggly employee.

“Those three places that we have are phenomenal. Whatever we need, they are accommodating,” he said. “What I also like is those places have their employees work with our students as well. They are part of the team.”

The students work twice weekly accounting for three to four hours.

The partnership, however, is only the beginning at Wilmot.

Transitional program
The school is starting a new program, effective in the fall, called Wilmot Next Step’s Transition.

The program for students 18-21 will give them more options once they finish school at Wilmot.

Students with intellectual disabilities can attend school until they are 21.

“After four years from high school, the academic piece is one facet, now we want to start the transition phase,” he said. “That way, at 21, we don’t have to ask, now what?”

“We already have our caseloads, any student who is 18-21 years will be in our Next Step’s program.”

“What that is going to look like is its five hours, five days a week, it is going to be all community and job-based training. There is not going to be a big academic piece of it. The academic piece is going to be more functional.”

The students will apply the tools they learned through reading and math classes into these jobs.

Hopkins, who will oversee the transition program, said he and Wilmot’s Director of Pupil Services Jon Watson toured five Southeastern Wisconsin schools with similar programs.

“We visited those schools and we saw what they do best,” he said.

Rural challenge
Hopkins, however, indicated implementing the program comes with challenges because Wilmot is in a rural environment.

In Muskego, where they toured the high school, there are multiple restaurants and hotels within five minutes of the institution.

“Being more rural, we have more difficulty since we are in Wilmot,” he said. “I have to go to Antioch, I have to go to Burlington, I have to go Twin Lakes and different areas because there are not many businesses around.”

Wilmot, meanwhile, has offered transportation services for students who are enrolled in the program and will continue it next year.

Each student will be paired with a job coach employed at the school for supervision.

“We want to make it an all inclusive program. There is something out there for everyone,” he said. “The hardest part for us is finding businesses and companies that are understanding to our needs.”

Antioch Pizza Shop in Paddock Lake, according to student Warren Haugle, has helped him come closer to making his dream a reality.

Haugle, 20, of Salem Lakes, looks to use money he has saved up for a trip to Disneyland.

“I should make money. I am saving for Disneyland,” he said.

In addition, he has enjoyed working with Antioch Pizza employees, who have been helpful.

“I love my bosses. They are very friendly. They help me do every job, every single day.”


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