NEWARK – A new program through the Worcester County Board of Education is providing local students with the opportunity for summer work.
Students in the county’s Restart program, formerly known as alternative school, were given the chance this year to take part in a six-week work experience program at the school system’s central office.
“The summer program is brand new,” said Brian Phillips, assistant principal at Worcester Technical High School. “The goal is to give the students employment.”
Since last year, the school system’s alternative school program — now referred to as Restart — has been housed in the central office. Last year, Superintendent Lou Taylor moved it to Worcester Technical High School. Students who participated in the program during the last school year were offered the chance to take part in the summer work program created by Annette Wallace, the school system’s chief operating officer.
“One of the goals that Dr. Wallace has for the board of education, it being the building from the 1950s, is to make it look nicer,” Phillips said. “She thought it best to utilize the Restart students to give them work experience and also help to increase the aesthetics of the board of education building.”
While some students already had summer jobs lined up, others were eager to find paying work at the central office. Currently four students are busy painting the building’s outdated walls, trim and ceiling.
“They’re very interested in working hard for their money,” said teacher Brittany Tracy, who’s helping to oversee the program.
Tom Zimmer, principal of Worcester Tech, said the summer work program was also giving students a chance to interact with adults they wouldn’t ordinarily encounter.
“I think it’s been a good situation for them because the adult interaction in this building has been very positive,” he said. “It’s good for adults, they hear the word alternative and they think something oddly out there and then they meet these kids one on one and they go ‘wow that’s a good kid.’ Yeah they are. They just need a chance.”
Zimmer says he’s also already seeing the benefits of Taylor’s decision to house the Restart program in Worcester Tech rather than the central office.
“Our hopes for many of them are to find something that catches their eye …,” he said, adding that one student in the program had transitioned into Worcester Tech’s automotive class. “Mr. Taylor was the one who wanted to move the program into our building. I think it was a great idea on his part. It does put these students right in the middle of a functioning school. they’re not isolated. They get opportunities in our building they wouldn’t have had.”
And while students enter the alternative program after struggling in their home schools, Zimmer said that once they work with instructors in Restart they’re often able to move back to regular classes.
“Any student that comes in, we hope they exit into a program in our building or exit back into a program in their own building,” he said. “We’re very successful this year with 75% of students that spent any time (in Restart) have exited the program.”