Spending time in the garden isn’t typically a teenager’s cup of tea. But for four Redmond School District students, pulling weeds, digging holes and shoveling dirt are providing both work experience and stress relief.
The students are enrolled in the district’s Transition and Empower Programs at the Edwin Brown Education Center. With the help of a Youth Transition Program grant, the students are paid for their efforts, but they are also gaining essential work skills designed to help land them future jobs in the outside world.
The students earn minimum wage for the two to three hours a week they spend cleaning up the center’s garden. The garden was neglected for quite some time and the task facing the students is formidable. But they don’t seem to mind.
“I love pulling weeds,” said student Derrick Saunders. “It’s therapeutic.”
“All our transition students get unpaid work experience,” said Sylvia Otten, Youth Transition Employment Specialist. “But this program helps give them the pride and sense of accomplishment that comes from earning a paycheck.”
According to Otten, the students had to go through an official hiring procedure including filling out an application, undergoing drug testing, fingerprinting and an informal interview. The process gave them a taste of what it’s like to be hired for a real job.
“The experience is helping the students build their job skills and giving them something to put on their resume,” said Otten.
Redmond Transition Program staff monitor the students’ progress. The students are assessed on dependability, attention to detail, independence and integrity.
“We want to see if there is improvement over time,” said Otten. “It’s a confidence builder as they move forward.”