Conner Walton doesn't think he would have learned how to run a store while sitting in a classroom.
But working at Cashway Distributors has equipped him with an array of skills, including customer service and money management.
Twenty-five employers in Craig were recognized at a banquet Thursday night for the contributions they make to Moffat County High School students in the Alternative Cooperative Education program, or ACE.
The program's 33 students each wrote a nomination that described why their employer should be employer of the year.
Cashway Distributors owner Jim Simos and manager Jeff Corriveau and Craig Conoco owner Danny Lee won employer of the year honors.
In his nomination for Lee, Nick Sheller wrote that his job taught him not only work skills but also ethics that included reliability, honesty and trustworthiness. He wrote that Lee taught him what it takes to be a good employee and demonstrated patience while working with him.
"In my book, all the employers are employers of the year," ACE teacher Rose Siminoe said.
"They realize they are working with students and they are willing to help them become better people," she said.
The ACE program gives students the opportunity to attend classes for part of the school day and work the rest of the day.
"It's another way to gain education without being directly in the classroom," Siminoe said.
Students usually sign up for the program on the recommendation of an adult but can take the initiative themselves. It requires them to take the ACE class and then dedicate one to three credit hours to working in a paid position. That means five to 15 hours a week on the job.
The class teaches students essential skills such as work behavior, attitude and ethics, customer service, how to find a job and how to get a job as well as consumer topics such as budgeting, banking and handling taxes.
Walton said he joined the program after seeing how well it worked for a co-worker at Cashway.
"I enjoy the atmosphere. We have a fun time while we're here at work," Walton said.