Supporting special students
Sammy Garcia of Kings Beach gives Greg Hackett a high-five Tuesday morning in the back office of Donner Memorial State Park.Ranger Greg, whats up my man, Garcia, 17, says as he greets Hackett, the supervising park ranger.Robin Marchi, community-based instruction teacher at Truckee High School, reminds Garcia to shake hands.Were practicing social skills, she tells the young student.Garcia is a junior in a Community Based Instruction Program a special education program through the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District and volunteers twice weekly at Donner Memorial State Park with his classmates. They pick up trash, price gift store items, direct visitors, operate cash registers and raise the parks American and California flags.
Marchi teaches seven North Tahoe and Truckee students in ninth through 12th grade at Truckee High School in a work-based program integrating academic, language and social skills.Its a combination of functional academics learning life skills, said Marchi. Theyre learning social skills, work skills, life skills and helping to be as independent as possible when they leave the school district.David Allen, a senior at Truckee High School, is the first to work Tuesday morning in the coveted position as information ranger. He operates the cash register, makes announcements and directs people with the help of a park ranger.I like talking to people, Allen, 18, says as he excuses himself to the back where he announces a movie time over the loud speaker. We do information ranger … and this is the Donner Party … and we read this in the mic, he says explaining his job duties.The school district and California State Parks formed a partnership over three years ago when Marchi approached Hackett to see if hed be interested in hosting her students at the local park. Both liked the idea of bringing young adults into the field to learn work responsibilities and general life skills.When they first partnered, students would do only light housekeeping duties. Now familiar with their job and responsibilities, Hackett said, they are capable of much more.Speaking on behalf of California State Parks, Hackett says as he points to his badge. Its part of our mission statement to partner in the community … Its heartwarming to see as they begin to grow and develop new skills. To see these students take leaps forward in my eyes and gain social skills. Theyre now able to give park directions, where they werent able to do that before.The end of the school year is just around the corner and two seniors will graduate, but the Community Based Instruction Program will continue through the summer with the students working at Donner Memorial State Park up to three times a week. They like working there, the students say, and look forward to the nice weather summer brings.I think the bottom line is the skills theyre learning in situations like this will work for them and serve them well in their lives as they go on and grow on in the community, Hackett says.
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