Special education students from Hermiston, Boardman, Irrigon and Umatilla high schools gathered at the Hermiston Conference Center Thursday to learn about life beyond high school.
The students heard from Good Shepherd Hospital’s education, environmental and food services departments, as well as Blue Mountain Community College about how to find jobs, advocate for themselves and make connections with people in the community.
Jackie Whitesell, a learning specialist for the Hermiston School District, said this is the first year the four schools have come together to pool their resources for special education students.
“It’s to help students learn about options available to them,” Whitesell said. “Since we’re a small area, we’ve banded together — four different high schools — to offer different educational outings.”
In addition to Thursday’s career day, students this year have visited the SAGE Center in Boardman to learn about agriculture and food preservation jobs and McNary Dam in Umatilla to learn about engineering related jobs.
“The goal is to have students go out of high school with a job in mind, and be able to get that job,” Whitesell said.
The students are all part of the special education programs at their schools. The program can include students with developmental, intellectual and special learning disabilities, as well as health and motor impairments, Whitesell said.
During Thursday’s four-hour session, students rotated between five different discussion groups, each focusing on a different resource in the area: representatives from Good Shepherd Hospital’s Environment, Education, Food Services and Human Resources Departments, and Blue Mountain Community College. At each session, students discussed with speakers different job opportunities within those areas, what they entail, and how to make a good impression when interviewing, as well as things like stress management and what to expect in a typical day at work.
“We’re going to talk about some weird jobs,” Bobbie Sue Arias of BMCC told a group of students. “How many of you knew that ‘bike messenger’ was a job?”
Arias asked students what some other similar jobs might be, eliciting responses from students such as “mailman” and “UPS driver.”
Nazario Rivera and Drew Brannon from Good Shepherd Hospital’s Education Department talked to the students about CPR instruction and Certified Nursing Assistants.
“We discuss what kinds of skills they might need, training,” Rivera said. “Any careers that might be within our realm.”
Timur Gaston, a special education teacher at Irrigon Junior/Senior High School, said the events this year have been beneficial for her students.
“They’re realizing there are other opportunities,” she said. “In our small community, the kids see jobs like teachers, postal workers, gas station attendants farm workers — but they don’t always know what else is out there. That’s why these events are important.”
Contact Jayati Ramakrishnan at 541-564-4534 or firstname.lastname@example.org