CREWS, “Crews Related Experiences With Students,” an elective class for juniors and seniors, gives special needs students the foundation of work skills and an environment to practice these skills in environments besides school.
The students attend businesses and restaurants, such as Marshall’s, Family Video, Chick-Fil-A, and Old Chicago several times during the week to gain experience in work.
Job placements and days rotate according to the student’s needs discussed in IEP meetings every year.
Marti Schmidt, Sharon Brashears and Candice McGinnis serve as the main transition specialists for the Crews program.
Chick- Fil- A began to work with Olathe East over three years ago making them the longest job exchange participant.
At work, the students may focus on one task like refilling just ketchup, instead of being tasked with refilling all of the condiments.
“They do what regular employees would do,” McGinnis said.
Marti Schmidt, a transition specialist who has worked for over forty years, helps students at Olathe East succeed.
Schmidt attended the University of Missouri for undergraduate studies in special education, and University of Central Missouri for her Master’s and specialist degrees.
Graduating with three degrees, Schmidt received degrees in psychology, elementary special education, and a minor in social work.
Schmidt switched to being a transitions specialist in 1988, but originally started classroom teaching after she graduated in 1973.
“I didn’t know that I was going to go into special education when I first started school. I didn’t have any idea, but I enjoyed helping people,” Schmidt said.
Public law 94-142, a federal law addressed by Congress in 1975, stated that all special education students needed teachers to help provide for their needs.
“I didn’t enjoy going to school when I was a student, but I enjoyed it later on,” Schmidt said.
One of Schmidt’s past students has been employed at Walmart for over 20 years, as well as one of special education teacher, Jolene Hagstrom’s students still being employed at Chick-Fil-A.
“Getting a job right after CREWS depends on the student. Some students just have an attitude that is more inclined to working a job; they want to please people.
“I always strive to make a change and do things better. You never stop improving because there are always ways to improve; you’re never satisfied”, Schmidt said.
Interpersonal Skills, one of the introduction classes for special needs students in CREWS, helps with vocations by learning soft skills in the classroom. These methods teach students how to talk to bosses and co-workers to help succeed better in jobs.
Interpersonal Skills, taught by Amy Hill, extends job skills and practices them during school hours in the same building.
Students from both CREWS and Interpersonal Skills learn how to develop these skills that they wouldn’t have without these classes.
“CREWS is a way for teachers to observe what skills a student is capable of and how well they progress. It is an exploration program, not just for employment for students to see if one day they will like stocking shelves,” said Candice McGinnis.
Blythe Dorrian // Co-Editor