DEER PARK, Wash. --- Almost every day after school, high school sophomore Christian Salcedo spends his days helping out at an ATV service center.
He cleans up, helps break down equipment, and washes the vehicles. He does everything a normal shop assistant would do…but he also has special needs.
This fall, Riverside High School’s Transitions program is back in its third year. The program allows students with intellectual disabilities to get work experience during high school.
Salcedo landed a job at Protection Plus in Deer Park, one that he feels lucky to have.
“I'm a hands-on person,” said Salcedo. “My favorite thing to do is put vehicles together and drive them."
Salcedo's boss Kayla Lecaire said she welcomes the help around the shop.
“He's always really eager. You know, you give him a task, he'll promptly start it and follow through," said Lecaire.
School leaders said the program connects students with intellectual disabilities and local businesses for on-the-job training. School officials said students are able to do basic tasks at local stores, restaurants, hair salons and boutiques. Students spend close to two hours a day, four days a week voluntarily working at several business in the area.
Rachea Allert, special education teacher, said a lot of times it can be difficult for her students to prepare for life after graduation, because they can’t get enough work experience.
“We've found job training is critical to their high school success, because these kids might not be our college-bound kids, but truly are eager to work, eager to learn, they're eager to be contributing members of society,” said Allert.
So far two students have earned paid positions after graduating since the program began three years ago, and Allert said they hope there will be many more.
“They want to be there. They want to help. They want to be in your community,” said Allert.