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Taking PRIDE in helping

Alissa Widman Neese • Nov 18, 2013 at 5:00 PM

About a dozen students from the PRIDE Academy at Sandusky Schools put the finishing touches on a three-month project this past week.

The group prepped a new location on U.S. 250 for the Firelands Habitat for Humanity ReStore and honed many skills, including teamwork, hauling and cleaning furniture and following directions.

Possibly the most important thing they learned: taking pride in helping others.

Want to partner with PRIDE Academy?

• If your business or organization is interested in working with PRIDE Academy this school year, contact teacher Lisa Cooper at 440-413-0086 or lcooper@scs-k12.net or teacher Judina Marsh at jmarsh@scs-k12.net.

“I like helping Miss Deb,” student Brandon Blake said, referencing ReStore director Deb Pankow. “My friends help me too. We work as a team.”

PRIDE Academy, now in its third year, aims to combine classroom time and hands-on opportunities for individuals with significant intellectual and developmental disabilities. The acronym stands for “Practical Real-World Instruction for Daily Living and Employment Skills.”

The program’s students are typically 18 to 22 years old, known as a “transition age” — a time when learning practical, real-world skills is extremely important as they hunt for long-term employment.

“We want our students to be real-world ready,” teacher Lisa Cooper said. “We’re teaching them skills that translate into many entrylevel jobs, so they have lots of options later in life and an ability to choose to do what they enjoy.”

In addition to the ReStore project, other volunteer activities include prepping meals at Victory Kitchen, stocking shelves at Save-A-Lot, landscaping at    Osborn MetroPark and studying housekeeping at Motel 6. Some students choose to work at the sites after graduating from PRIDE Academy, while others transfer the skills to other job options.

Jarred Feuerstein, for example, learned his furniture hauling expertise could come in handy at a business like Value City Furniture, he said.

Tony Stewart explained a job means earning a paycheck, which can be used for anything from day-to-day purchases to saving up for a brand new car.

Prepping the ReStore this fall was a months-long educational partnership that will continue for future projects, said Mike McCall, Firelands Habitat for Humanity executive director.

The ReStore opened Saturday at its new, larger location on U.S. 250, in the old Fun Zone building near Kalahari Resorts.

The store accepts and sells gently used furniture, appliances, household fixtures and building materials.

It’s open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. All profits benefit Firelands Habitat for Humanity house construction projects in the local area.

“These students have been a huge part of getting this project off the ground,” McCall said. “We couldn’t have done it without them. They’re hard-working and reliable, and we look forward to working with them all year.”

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