hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

October 24, 2013

Effort to help special needs students develop a future is inspiring

The Haverhill Gazette

---- — They are the kind of students who, in the past, might have been forgotten.

Because they were learning disabled, they were far from college bound.

They might not even have been in line for a basic form of employment due to their disabilities, but moreso because of their lack of practical training.

A few years ago, they might have wound up sitting at home when their schooling was over wondering what to do next.

Their parents would worry, uncertain of what the future would bring, wishing there were a way for their kids to learn basic job skills and have a chance to work.

Enter the Learning for Life program at Haverhill High School.

The program is helping to fill the gap for these students and their families. (See story, Page 1.)

It allows the students to stay in the learning environment past the typical high school graduation age. During that time, they work in places like the City Hall Cafe, where they cook meals and tend to customers. They work in a store at Haverhill High, where they gain other job skills.

The students learn to greet people when they stop in. They learn phone skills, how to run a cash register and take inventory. They learn good old-fashioned customer service.

And they gain confidence.

Then comes the networking, which, as anyone looking for work knows, is a key. Several local companies support the program, some providing internships, others even a chance to land a job.

The Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce and some businesses give money to help replenish some of the items sold by the students.

This is a team effort, a refreshing project that is giving these young people a chance when they might otherwise have had none.

We applaud the educators and business people who are involved.

We urge other companies to join in, whether by donating a few dollars, creating an internship or opening up entry-level positions to these students.

The future of a young person may very well depend on it.