Program gives students credit for local employment
Craig — Joseph Padon, Moffat County High School teacher, sits beneath a row of posters attached to his classroom’s ceiling.
The multicolored boards, which feature images his students cut from magazines, are more than classroom decorations.
The posters represent goals held by students in Padon’s Alternative Cooperative Education class, or more commonly referred to as ACE.
Some show piles of cash while others show images of high school graduation.
Students can reach both goals through the class, Padon said.
The ACE program gives high school students class credit for working full or part time.
Although the class initially was created for students from low-income families or those at risk for dropping out of school, any student interested in getting work experience are allowed to enroll, Padon said.
Including students who have a hard time fitting in to a traditional school setting.
“High schoolers can be mean : if you don’t fit in,” Padon said. “Maybe some kids feel uncomfortable being around so many people all the time.”
Whatever the reason, some students would rather go straight to work rather than stay in school, he said.
The ACE program allows them to have both the work experience they want and the high school education they need, Padon said.
The yearlong class is open to students 16 years old and older and allows them to leave school up to three periods early. For each class period excused, students must work a prerequisite number of hours either during weekdays or the weekend.
They also are required to attend school four other periods of the day.
“The school schedule comes first,” Padon said, adding that local employers build the students’ work schedules around class times.
One of those classes must include Padon’s class, where he teaches students the correct way to fill out a job application, complete a job interview and file income taxes.
The class’s content is rarely new to students.
“It’s stuff they know already,” Padon said. “We’re just perfecting it.”
His students then take the information they’ve learned in the classroom to the jobs they are employed at locally – jobs they must land and keep to pass the class.
Poor workmanship on the jobsite has its consequences in the classroom.
If a student gets fired, he or she fails the quarter. Neglecting to give employers at least two weeks notice before leaving a job also warrants a failing grade.
At the end of the quarter, employers submit an evaluation sheet judging the students’ attitudes, problem solving abilities, interpersonal skills, “almost everything,” Padon said.
Padon figures these evaluations into the teenagers’ grades.
The program also requires sacrifice, he said.
Students may have to give up their Saturday evenings to work while their classmates are at school sporting events or activities. Others may work up to 40 hours per week in addition to time spent in school.
These are sacrifices most students are willing to make, Padon said.
“I think that’s why they love the class,” he said. “They love to work.”
High school senior Caitlin Bogdin said she is one such student.
After attending morning classes at school, Bogdin dons a McDonald’s uniform and goes to work – a place she puts in 30 hours a week.
“I think that it’s cool that I got to leave school early and get credit for working,” she said. “It teaches you more about the real world.”
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