Students in the High School High Tech Program have had a busy summer engaging in employment workshops, working at summer internship and other jobs, and attending the Youth Leadership Forum in Tallahassee.

Through this career mentoring program, students were put to work with different employers and businesses in town. Our businesses partners gave a number of students the opportunity to learn how to be effective employees 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.

Steve Kerigan at Coast 2 Coast Printing and Graphic Design mentored Kelly Houk for her internship. Kelly said that the best part of interning was, “Getting experience with customer service and interacting with customers.”

Kerigan noted that she gained in confidence everyday as she learned how to great the customers and find out what their needs were.

Braving the hot sun to work with horses, Chasity Kaleta-Gonzalez interned with Karmin Walker, owner of Sand and Spurs Stables. She helped prepare the horses for beach riding at Salinas Park and greeted the customers.

“I really liked meeting people from all over the country like Dallas and Seaside,” she said.

Being creative is Ciera Rice’s passion and she got to utilize her talents in two internship positions. The first three weeks, Dorann McMullon of Designs by Dorann introduced Ciera to the world of floral design.

The next three weeks, Ciera worked with Judy Scott, the florist at Piggly Wiggly.

“I really like the creative part of the floral industry,” Rice said.

“Working with these mentors is invaluable for the students as they develop their skills for employment. We so appreciated the business mentors’ willingness to not just hire our students but to really mentor them and teach them good work habits.” Robyn Rennick, program director of HSHT, relates.

“This year we started each week with a three-hour employment skills workshop which we held at Gulf Coast State College.” Rennick continued. “The students participated in discussions about what to expect in their jobs, how to handle different issues that arose, and how to recognize their progress.”

Judy Scott, Piggly Wiggly florist, gave a presentation on what is expected of a new employee.

Cathy Rutherford, at Career Source, helped the students write resumes. “We opened the workshop to all our students and had several who had jobs not through the internships attend,” Rennick said.

Lastly, three of the High School High Tech students attended four-day leadership training in Tallahassee. The Youth Leadership Forum is program facilitated by Florida Association of Centers for Independent Living and is a unique training program for high school students with disabilities. Delegates are chosen based on their leadership potential through participation in school, extracurricular activities and/or community involvement.

HSHT of Gulf County had three students selected to attend the conference.

Houk, Rice and Chassidy Burrell spent four days with students from across the state engaging in team building exercises, learning about state government (even holding a mock legislative session in the House of Representatives) and exploring possibilities for their futures.

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.

The students’ stipends for the internship program and other activities are raised through local funding by the sponsorships from local businesses in the Autumn Action Golf Tournament. The Autumn Action will be held at the St Joseph Bay Golf Club, Oct. 6. Please consider a sponsorship or come out and bring a team and help the kids.

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 is 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 13th 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.