As a district, we want to prepare our students the best we can to succeed post-graduation. Rochester Public Schools has many programs and pathways to reach every student. One program to help students achieve life success is the Student Work Program.
The Student Work Program at Edison is offered to special education students from Mayo, Century, and John Marshall to provide students with experiential learning in agriculture, packaging, manufacturing, and customer service. These students have an Individual Education Plan and work with special education teachers to see what their goals are for the future. With the consent of a parent or guardian, students can be encouraged to work for one to two semesters in the Student Work Program to prepare themselves for jobs out in the community.
While participating in the Edison Student Work Program, students are exposed to and have access to many different work experiences included in the Minnesota Career Fields, Clusters, and Pathways. These experiences include filing, data entry, sorting mail, looking up locations for wayward mail, sorting & shredding paper, fulfilling orders for various items like beads, rocks, plastic chips, & mini clothespins, rolling silverware, folding children’s menus for a local restaurant, folding towels per the hotel industry standard, assembling flashlights and faucets, collecting recycling from around the building, sanitizing door handles, washing windows, vacuuming, running, stocking and counting cash for the weekly snack cart, fulfilling coffee and hot chocolate orders, stocking sugar & sweetener packets into containers, and multiple unique projects for departments housed at the Edison building.
Special Ed teacher, Heather Merren, has been in charge of this program since the Fall of 2021 and loves the role she is in. Heather has had a passion for helping young adults be more independent since she was in high school. When she worked at McDonald’s in high school, she would see teachers come in with students doing community-based training and knew that that was what she wanted to do after graduation.
“Students with disabilities are underrepresented in the workforce,” Heather said. “They have so much to offer and so many abilities that people overlook. Whatever I can do to give people a leg up in a community setting and give students support and a safe environment, I will do.”
Heather strives passionately to see her students gain a competitive wage post-RPS that they’ve earned, not because they are disabled but because they have the ability and skill set to do the job.
Since its establishment, the student work program has expanded to more growth areas. Students have built raised garden beds to grow vegetables this school year and will soon begin detailing district vans when the weather permits. We can’t wait to see what our students will do next.