Time to go back to school but students in the High School High Tech Program in Port St. Joe had a busy summer with summer internships and jobs. Businesses partners gave a number of students the opportunity to learn how to be an effective employee this summer with job training and exposure to the work environment. In addition, our local High School High Tech paid them a stipend for their internship, and based on their skill improvement and meeting some “good employee” standards they received bonuses.

Chassidy Burrell worked with Susan Machemer at Consolidated Communications learning office and work skills, going through the same training that they give their full-time employees and then spent her second three weeks this Mimi Minnick at North Florida Child Development working with children, Chassidy’s passion.

Aaliyah Morison spent six weeks with Jessica Swindall at the Florida Coastal Conservatory working in the field, learning about the turtles and helping with their nests, cleaning up trash left on the beach, and in the office learning work skills. Kelly Houk also worked for three weeks with Jessica with field work and office work. They had more fun than they thought was possible working. Goes to show have a job that you love and a lot of enjoyment comes from it. Both girls learned a lot about our unique environment here in Gulf County.

Leondra Leslie completed six weeks of summer internship at the St. Joseph Bay Humane Society with Caisey Rodgers and learned work skills and how to take care of the precious animals-all of which she wanted to take home.

Hunter Vandertulip had his six weeks summer internship at Seahorse Water Safaris with Kim Jenkins and Charlene Burke learning work skills and so much more. He took to it like a “duck to water” (no pun intended) and did so well, he was hired on for working extra time after his internship was over.

Three of the students were able to obtain full time summer employment because of their past experience in the internship program.

Joseph Cunningham worked at Piggly Wiggly and James Gleim and Howard Townsend both worked at Hungry Howie’s.

Nick Ward was selected by the Able Trust to attend the Youth Leadership Forum in Tallahassee in July where he, along with students from across the state, participated in four days of leadership training, civic education and fun.

High School High Tech is a program of Dyslexia Research Institute and is partially funded by the Able Trust and Vocational Rehabilitation. HSHT is designed to give high functioning kids with disabilities work/job skills and exposure to different occupational options while they are in high school. Through participation in the meetings and community volunteer service, the students earn the right to be in the paid internship summer program.

Throughout the year our Program Director, Heather Gainous, worked with the students on different job skills and requirements. Various business partners in Port St Joe helped with different types of training and exposure to the variety of occupational opportunities that the students might have with workshops and Career Shadowing. Heather has done an excellent job working with the students and our business partners.

The students’ stipend for the internship program is raised through local funding by the sponsorships from local businesses in the Ladies Golf Association Autumn Action Tournament.

The Autumn Action will be held at the St Joseph Bay Golf Club, Oct. 7.

Please consider a sponsorship or come out and bring a team and help the kids.

Next year the program will be expanded through a grant awarded by the Alfred P. DuPont Foundation. No grant funds can be used for the stipends, but with more students in the program next year, we will need to raise more local funds than ever.

None of the accomplishments of this program is possible without the fantastic support of our local businesses who participate throughout the year. Our deepest appreciation goes out to each one of them for their time and effort working with our HSHT students throughout the year.

Patricia Hardman, PhD is the Director of HSHT. Robyn Rennick will be the Program Director next year and is looking forward to working with Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School, our business partners and the students to make our 12th year of this program the most successful ever.

If you are interested in being involved, please contact Robyn at 229-8989 or come by our office at 1934 SR 30 A in Simmons Bayou and talk with us.