The new Call A Comet Program, which begins this coming school year, gives students with special educational needs both jobs and life experiences they may not otherwise get easily.
In addition, these jobs will be provide valuable services to community members, said Carri Brandt, the DDHS Special Education Department chair and Call A Comet organizer.
“There were not a lot of available paid positions out there, so we decided to make our own,” Brandt said. “This is a way to teach students job experiences in a supervised environment so they can learn to become better workers and be ready to work other jobs when they’re done with high school.”
The program will focus on giving job skills training and pay to students age 18-21. State and federal laws allow students with special needs to continue their public education until they reach age 21. Other junior and senior students with special needs can be a part of the program, too, Brandt said.
“Ultimately, the goal is to have students, when they leave Delavan-Darien High School, to have a plan, which means having a job already lined up, going into the military, or entering college,” Brandt said. “We don’t want them (the eligible 18 to 21-year-old students) leaving this program until something like that happens.”
Brandt said some grants have been obtained to provide seed money to support the program. Proceeds raised by performing services should keep it self-sustaining.
Students will receive minimum wage for the work performed, which might include car washing, dog walking, light yard work, home cleaning, linen services and possibly other duties the students are able to perform, Brandt said.
“The students who will be involved in the program are really excited about it,” Brandt said, noting that she knows of no other extensive high school work program in the state. “I’ve also had some phone calls from families in other districts asking about it. Some of those students are considering enrolling here because of it, which is very exciting.”
When the students aren’t performing paid tasks, they will be doing community service work for other experiences. It’s another way the school district gives back to the community, Brandt said.
Other work-experience programs run at DDHS for students with special needs include the selling of Balloon Bouquets, making and selling coffee in the DDHS library and staffing a snack cart that makes regular rounds at DDHS.