Students learn ‘Skills to Pay the Bills’ at ESU No. 3, Goodwill workshop

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Posted: Saturday, April 12, 2014 12:00 am

Dylan Zimmerli’s dream job is to be a Broadway actor.

Johnny Frerichs wants a job with Google.

Their peers want to detail cars, develop video games, work with children and travel the world.

Zimmerli, Frerichs and 14 of their peers shared their dream jobs during an educational workshop through Goodwill Industries Inc. and Educational Service Unit No. 3.

The three-day workshop, “Skills to Pay the Bills,” is designed to teach high school students with disabilities the skills they need in order to be successful in the workplace.

This was Goodwill’s second year partnering with ESU No. 3 for the program, said Holly Schwietz, Goodwill’s work experience coordinator. The partnership was made possible both years by grants from the Metro Regional Transition Committee.

Attendance for this year’s session with ESU No. 3 students more than doubled.

Goodwill already works with 12 area high schools, including ones in Bellevue and Papillion, in a work experience program, Schwietz said.

“Skills to Pay the Bills” focuses on teaching students to keep positive mental attitudes and to bounce back from rejection or difficulties. Curriculum for the program also includes communication, teamwork, networking, problem solving and professionalism.

“We know how important it is at work to use social skills,” Schwietz said.

Participants learn how to search for a job, how to obtain proper identification and documents for the workplace and how to work with a boss.

“They might get information at school,” Schwietz said. “But we’re putting them in a work environment and telling them these are what we look for.”

The program also offers a session to parents. The parent session focuses on how to deal with their child’s transition from school to the working world.

“They can use it as a way to talk to their child. It stimulates the dialogue,” Schwietz said. “It’s best to get information early and start the transition out of the house, out of school.”

Zimmerli, 17, attended the workshop at his mom’s recommendation.

“I want to get into the workplace,” he said.

Zimmerli, a student at Bellevue West High School, said his main takeaway from the program was keeping a positive attitude. But gathering with his peers was also fun.

“We get to learn skills that we don’t have time to during school because we’re in class,” he said.

Frerichs, a student at Papillion IDEAL School, had a teacher suggest he attend.

Frerichs, 17, learned valuable skills about teamwork, leadership and communication.

“Communication is key,” he said.

The workshop teaches the curriculum through hands-on activities, journaling and role playing.

At the end, students complete a survey and post-test. Results and feedback are then shared with their schools and teachers.

“It’s very collaborative,” Schwietz said. “We pass on what we’re observing as the students go forward.”

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