By VAL OLIVAS, Four Points News
A handful of hard working, young adults who are mentally or physically challenged have jobs each week in Steiner Ranch, River Place and Grandview Hills.
“(The students) are an invaluable resource. They want to work so much and work hard while they’re here,” said Kristi Nordin, co-owner of Cups & Cones.
These students, who are 18 to 22 years old, are part of the Leander ISD’s SELF 30 program which stands for Skills for Enhancing Lifelong Fulfillment.
The SELF 30 program, which teaches life skills, currently serves 12 LISD students.
“Most are non-verbal and it’s hard for them to go from lunch to an afternoon activity, for example,” said Aline Crompton, who works with job coaches to supervise the students at work assignments.
“Every one of our students has a job—two are paid,” she said.
One student helps servers and busses tables at Lakeside Pizza and Grill. Another is a nap helper at School in the Hills.
In addition to his job at Schlotzky’s, Steiner Ranch student Matthias Voelkl also delivers Four Points News to shops and businesses in Steiner.
River Place Country Club, Home Depot, Walgreen’s, Iguana Grill, Concordia University Texas and Big Frog Custom T-shirts and More also have jobs for SELF 30 students. In 2012, Longhorn Village had students help them decorate the Christmas trees on each floor.
“Each is enthusiastic when they walk through the door. They introduce themselves to the people here and say hi to those they see often. That is heartwarming to me,” Nordin said.
She and husband Rick have been working with SELF 30 students for a couple of years at Cups & Cones.
Because of their kindness, other local businesses have seen their quality work and have found jobs for the students, said Sandy Frankum who’s a part-time job coach for SELF 30.
“The students have been well-received by the community,” Frankum said.
Crompton recalls one afternoon when she and a group of students left Canyon Ridge Middle School to head for lunch and to begin working their afternoon. About halfway to Lakeside Pizza in Steiner they were met by a downpour of rain. “A customer at the restaurant anonymously paid for the entire group’s meal,” she said.
LISD SELF 30 students meet at Concordia for class where they learn about adult living, health, employment and post-secondary education options. Crompton and the job coaches teach students how to care for themselves by learning to cook, dress themselves and work in a structured job environment.
Once they attain their functional independence, they are awarded a high school diploma. By graduation, SELF 30 students have worked many hours.
“What are the young adults going to do when school is gone without possessing these life skills?” Crompton asks.
“Jason Hammack is a poster child for our service. He is a good ambassador. This is his second year with SELF 30. He is a happy and sweet young man and is proud of his person,” Crompton said.
Hammack with student peer and co-worker Sherrod Bell work every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Their days begin at 8:30 a.m. at Concordia’s Starbucks located in the student union. They restock drinks and snacks, restore sugar packets, push in chairs. The pair then works in Concordia’s cafeteria by cleaning the tables, microwave, dish return and sweeping.
Bell and Hammack stop for a lunch break and are driven to Cups & Cones where they sanitize toys, wash windows, fold towels, mop, vacuum and water the plants.
“I like washing windows the best because I get to use the spray bottle,” shares Hammack excitedly.
Hammack has also helped Cups & Cones by counting and dividing fruit, stuffing cookie bags and labeling bags for the students competing in football and basketball programs.
The SELF 30 program implemented a monthly Community Hero Award, recognizing and thanking the businesses who are involved with helping the students.
Other school districts throughout the state have successfully modeled their own life skills programs after LISD’s SELF program, which has SELF 10 and SELF 20 programs.
SELF 30 organizers are looking for businesses willing to work with their students and are seeking more paying jobs for them. They would like to partner with hospitals, hotels and other companies that need the help their students offer. Additionally the students are insured by LISD for liability coverage while working.
“We have a school district that believes in covering all the students’ transition needs. Otherwise our kids would sit home all day, watch TV, eat dinner and go to bed. They need to have a purpose,” Crompton says.