Six students at Zachary High School are learning job and life skills thanks to their teacher, Jamie Byrd, and a few local businesses.
The students are in Byrd’s special education classroom, and they work a few hours each week at Stage and The Crossing at First Baptist Church of Zachary.
Sandy Barnett, who works in shipping and receiving at Stage, says she enjoys when the students come to work.
“They are really sweet and are a big help,” Barnett said. “Plus, we feel like we’re helping them.”
While at Stage, the students unpack boxes, fold or hang clothes on racks and clean behind the scenes, Barnett said.
Ordinarily, the retail store would pay someone to do the work, but the Zachary students are filling an employee vacancy, according to Barnett.
This is the first year the students have worked at the Zachary retail store.
On other days, the teens clean at The Crossing, where they sweep, mop, wipe down tables, empty garbage cans and vacuum.
“The work for the students is vital in helping them learn job skills,” said Byrd, who has spent the past 10 years teaching special needs children at Copper Mill and Zachary Elementary and now teens at the high school.
“We try to do as much as we can in the community,” Byrd said. “Our whole goal is to get the students a job when they graduate.” The six students in her classroom look forward to going to work.
“My favorite is working with the clothes,” said senior Raven Polar, a special needs student.
She likes working in the Bronco store on campus, Byrd added.
Arron Fronek, a James Bond fan, said he would like to work in a video game store.
The special education teacher says she hopes more businesses in the Zachary community will be open to employing the special needs students once they learn about what her students can do.
“I just want to raise awareness that this program does exist at Zachary High, and we’re always looking for other businesses to participate,” Byrd said.
Some businesses that have welcomed the students are Eye on the Ball, Home Depot and LeBlanc’s Food Stores.
Jesse Cassard, Zachary athletics director, has allowed the students to assist with field maintenance and cleaning the stadium in the mornings.
The students also have volunteered to help the Zachary Food Pantry by reinforcing or double-bagging plastic bags, Byrd said.
“I want them to be fully prepared so they can work,” Byrd said. “I try to bring people from the community to us and us to the community.”
Besides the businesses, speakers or volunteers from the community have visited the students in their classroom, assisting them with various life skills.
Firefighters from the Zachary Fire Department have taught fire safety; Zachary Police officers have taught the students personal safety lessons; and a real estate agent has visited, assisting the students with making personal appointments.
Every Friday, the teens cook in class and learn about measurements as well as how to clean and wash clothes.
Byrd also has empty shelving units so the students can practice stocking items.
“I like making pancakes the best,” Zachary High’s Irvin Richard said.
If you are a business in the Zachary community or an organization or businessperson willing to assist the students with job or life skills, contact Byrd by email at email@example.com.