Moffat County Class of 2019 Graduation: Paige Hoth finds purpose, happiness through work program
On Sundays, Moffat County High School senior Paige Hoth spends her time with older wiser seniors, singing church hymns with the elderly at Sandrock Ridge Care and Rehab.
“Seniors are nice, and they need somebody,” Hoth said. “They have the time of day, and they have more patience than younger people do.”
Shortly after graduation, if everything goes as planned, in part, thanks to a state program, Hoth hopes she will be able to turn her passion for working with seniors into a future career opportunity.
The soon-to-be high school graduate said she is ready to put her high school days behind her, but, like many teenagers, she’s unsure what the next chapter will bring.
She’s a self-described happy person who loves her family, riding her horses and walking her chihuahua, Tebow. But one thing she detests is school. She is adamant in her desire to be done with school.
“It’s not for everyone, college isn’t for everyone,” she said.
Hoth said she would rather join the workforce than accumulate a ton of school debt.
“I just want to work a full-time job, Monday through Saturday,” she said.
Through a state program called the School to Work Alliance, or SWAP, a 25-year-old partnership between Moffat County School District and the Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Hoth has received additional support as she embarks on her first post-high school job search and heads out into the real world.
A recent change to the decades-old program allows for students like Hoth to start working with SWAP at 15 years old to feel out different career paths long before graduation day.
The program is open to Moffat County students and young adults with physical, emotional or learning disabilities ages 15 to 24.
Hoth has dyslexia — one of the nation’s most common learning disabilities — and admittedly doesn’t enjoy reading and hates math, but she loves to write and work with people.
Over the years, with the help of SWAP coordinator Amanda McDermott, Hoth has narrowed down prospective work opportunities and, just recently, toured and applied for a job with her hopeful future employer, Sandrock Ridge.
The SWAP program partners with local businesses to provide paid work experiences for students and young adults with special needs — 160 hours worth of salary, workers compensation, and all necessary liability coverage.
“There really is no liability for them (businesses) to let a student try it out other than some training time, but we can also provide job coaches for some of our kids so they have additional support on the job,” McDermott said.
SWAP coordinated Hoth’s first pleasant work experience at Wild Flowers Salon where she learned to man the phones, take messages, clean the shop and organize inventory.
“We help with resumes, applications, interviewing and just really talking about networking and how important their appearance in interviews and in the public is — just all of those basic job skills that are good for everyone to review often,” McDermott said.
Currently, 15 graduating MCHS class of 2019 seniors are SWAP clients looking for post-secondary jobs.
“I think it’s hard for any teenager to get a job, so this is a really nice opportunity to have work experience that employers aren’t paying for, it gives them an opportunity to learn,” she said.
McDermott credits Hoth’s teachers for playing a crucial role in the senior’s success.
“Amy Ulrich and Jeff Sullivan, the teachers that work with Paige and other students, they are 100% the driving force behind making transition planning happen,” McDermott said. “They are the glue that keeps the transition plan together through all of the years of high school. I love getting to support them and the students in that planning. We are just so fortunate to have two teachers that are so dedicated and passionate about students in Moffat County.”
Hoth’s personality and work ethic is the other part of that equation, she said.
“Paige is just one of the absolute hardest workers and it stands out when she meets people,” she said. “She’s one of the kindest most genuine young ladies I’ve ever met.”
When asked where Hoth sees herself fifteen years down the road, the senior instantly answered with a one-word reply — Happy.
“I don’t ask for much, just happy,” Hoth said. “Which I already am. I just live life to the fullest.”
Like many seniors, Hoth’s aspirations are ever-changing; her future is bright and full of potential.
Right now, she would be happy working in the kitchen at Sandrock Ridge, but one day, she said, she hopes she can move into an activities coordinator role, or maybe, even, a Certified Nursing Assistant position.
“Who knows, maybe when I’m 30 or 40, I can come work for SWAP,” she said. “I wish everyone, all teenagers, could be in the SWAP program.”