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Opportunites Abound for Unique WCHS Students

Opportunities truly abound for students of Wayne County High School. In addition to the variety of traditional degree programs, college classes, AP courses, and extracurricular activities that exist for students, the school also offers a non-traditional diploma through Kentucky’s Alternate Assessment program.

According to the Kentucky Department of Education, “The Career Work Experience Certification (CWEC) is one of four components of the Kentucky Alternate Assessment. The CWEC was developed for students with significant cognitive disabilities in an alternative high school diploma course of study participating in the alternate assessment.”

Through this program, special-education students in Ms. Krista Bullock’s class are able to demonstrate career competency while experiencing the real world and obtaining valuable life skills. Mrs. Bullock speaks very highly of the program: “When you think about all of the perks of living in a small rural town, the variety of employment options for individuals with cognitive disabilities is not typically the first thing that comes to mind.  But, when that community is blessed with students that long to find their niche, community business partners that are willing to give them an opportunity, and a school system that works toward building that bridge for our future, that is the recipe for success!”

At its root, the program is very simple. Students receive person-centered planning services with their lead case manager, their special education teacher in this case, and an interdisciplinary team. An individualized graduation plan is then created for the student, reviewed, and updated to meet that student’s individual needs. The students obtain real-world experience and training through community partners willing to share their prospective trades and skills with them. Upon completion of the program, participating students are ultimately held accountable for the same standards as their peers pursuing traditional diplomas.

This year, three senior students have participated in this community-based learning initiative: Austin Jones worked at Cooper Community Farms, Kaden Saunders worked at Main Street Books, and Mahalia Nicholas worked at Hair Masters Salon. In each of these work sites, students got the opportunity to pursue career fields of interest to them while receiving real-world experience and training.

Charity Ramsey, owner of Main Street Books, shared her experience with the program: “We have enjoyed working with Kaden! He comes on Wednesday for two hours and works with Mrs. Roxanne here at the bookstore. He helps clean, put away heavy items, straighten up, put up new books, stamp our logo onto gift bags, and he has also been learning how to use the cash register and check out items.”

“Kaden has been a big help to us at Main Street Books. We’ve enjoyed the opportunity to have him here and include the youth in our vision of growing downtown Monticello.”

Stephanie Roberts-Gehring at local salon HairMasters is also very appreciative of her intern from Ms. Bullock’s class. “Mahalia is willing to do and learn anything that we ask or show her to do. She’s very polite with the customers and loves talking with them.”

According to the students’ teacher, Krista Bullock, community programs like this are of vital importance and greatly benefit unique students like hers: “In a rural community such as ours,” she said, “it’s difficult to find your niche. Add any type of physical or cognitive impairment to that challenge, and it’s extremely difficult if not impossible to do so. These students are all working hard to learn vocational soft skills, work ethics, and problem-solving skills in order to become contributing members of our society.”

Elizabeth Miller, Guidance Counselor at Wayne County High School, agrees with Ms. Bullock on the value of the program, stating, “Our students are flourishing at their work locations. This is wonderful in a couple of different ways.  First, we have had businesses who have believed in these young people and have given them opportunities to learn employability skills.  Second, these kids are learning – and working – and functioning.  This is a game changer for the students, and it makes me love our little town even more.”

Steve Thompson, Wayne County High School Principal, further congratulated the students who are participating in the CWEC program. “We couldn’t be happier with what these students are doing,” stated Thompson. “This has been a great opportunity for these students and seeing their constant success is inspiring.”

Wayne County High School is proud of their three seniors completing the CWEC certification this school year. However, these students would not have had the opportunity to grow their vocational skills or demonstrate their strong work ethic without their community business partners. These individuals include Cecil Crabtree at Cooper Community Farms, Charity Ramsey and Roxanne Stringer at Main Street Books, and Debbie Hill, Liz Miller, Linda Stigall, and Stephanie Gehring at Hair Masters.

Ms. Bullock and her class would like to show their gratitude towards the administration team at the high school and the transportation department for all of the support they have provided to ensure students can travel to their work sites during the school day.

The old proverb that “it takes a village to raise a child” is being very clearly demonstrated in Wayne County. Administration, teachers, students, and various community members are all coming together to create worthwhile educational experiences for students and tailoring those experiences to their specific needs. Through Wayne County High School’s CWEC program, students from different educational levels are being given fantastic opportunities to pursue careers and obtain the skills necessary to be successful, productive citizens.

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