Clark Co. program helps special needs students learn work skills

Clark Co. program helps special needs students learn work skills
Students in the Choice Program used a hose to practice putting out a kitchen fire. (Source: Dale Mader, WAVE 3 News)
Students in the Choice Program used a hose to practice putting out a kitchen fire. (Source: Dale Mader, WAVE 3 News)
Adam Monson (Source: Dale Mader, WAVE 3 News)
Adam Monson (Source: Dale Mader, WAVE 3 News)
Jeremy Shingleton (Source: Dale Mader, WAVE 3 News)
Jeremy Shingleton (Source: Dale Mader, WAVE 3 News)
Austin Self (Source: Dale Mader, WAVE 3 News)
Austin Self (Source: Dale Mader, WAVE 3 News)
Justin Ames (Source: Dale Mader, WAVE 3 News)
Justin Ames (Source: Dale Mader, WAVE 3 News)

JEFFERSONVILLE, IN (WAVE) - A group of high school students with special needs are getting a helping hand with their future.

The Choice Program at Greater Clark County Schools connects students with special needs to different professions, teaching them life skills so they can find and succeed in jobs after they graduate. For the past 11 weeks, they've been going to Jeffersonville Fire Department to learn from the firefighters.

"Are Y'all doing okay? Caleb! What's up! Jeremy," said Justin Ames with the Jeffersonville Fire Department. When the kids walk in and are greeted by Ames and the rest of the staff at the department, the mood lifts.

"We're going to raise the ladder, we're going to hook up the hose and then we're going to do a mock fire in a kitchen," Ames said, explaining to the kids what they'll be working on during their weekly visit.

Each week, this group from Jeffersonville High's Choice Program master new skills.

"So what we've got to do, we've got to work as a team," Ames said, instructing the students on how to use the fire hose inside a mock kitchen, using the hose's strong spray to put out fake fires.

"Go in, go in. Back him up," Ames said, coaching the kids through the hose drill. To knock out all the fake fires, they need teamwork and patience.

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"Line the notches up, there you go. Good job Chauncy," Ames said.

Each task binding the class together.

"There you go Noah," the class cheers as they raise the fire ladder to the building's roof. The students here grow with each task and project they complete.

"We got teamwork and I really like that. And he tell us we're good. Shout out to him," said Austin Self, a student in the Choice Program and the week's student fire captain.

"Teamwork. The whole year," said student Adam Monson, talking about what they've learned here at the fire department.

"And learn different job training skills so they can be more competitive in the workforce one day. So hopefully when they graduate high school, we can help them get jobs," said Whitney Stevens, their teacher at Jeffersonville High School.

Stevens said there are a lot of things you just can't teach inside the classroom but this real world experience gives kids that same knowledge.

"Are you confident to go out and get a job?" Ames asked. "Yes, I am," Monson said.

"I'm going to have the confidence to go out and work," said Jeremy Shingleton, a student in The Choice Program.

"And I want to work here, so much," Self said.

"It is, it's a great feeling getting to see them all grow and really be able to make a difference," Stevens said.

That growth is so important for their future and so inspiring to those supporting the journey now.

"They're not afraid. Their confidence is just booming, it's amazing," Ames said.

This year, the students have worked at an animal shelter and a library before The Choice Program brought them to Jeffersonville Fire. Crew members at the fire department said the program and experience is as rewarding for them as it is the kids.

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