Arrowhead sophomore Cassie Frami and junior Alex Long
compete in a challenge in which they had to make as many
sandwiches as possible in an allotted time during the
2017 Job Olympics.
Freeman file photo
OF MERTON — Making sure students leave high school with
a set of employable workforce skills is an ongoing
battle. Trends in what skills are needed come and and
go. A group of Arrowhead High School special education
students recently received validation in their
employable skills at the 22nd annual Special Education
Job Olympics. Arrowhead took home the overall
first-place team finish prize in an event that is
designed to promote self-esteem, teamwork, friendships,
and, of course, employable skills.
“What they look at are what are the employable events
for the young people,” explained John Hough, special
education teacher at Arrowhead and advisor of the
student-led Cafe Arrowhead. “This year, we added a
popcorn selling event, trying to simulate what you might
do at a concession stand at a Marcus theatre.”
total of 20 high schools in the tricounty area competed
in 20 challenges that incorporated 20 different
post-secondary employment areas. Students also learned
interviewing skills, resume building and how to speak
professionally. Each student on each high school team
chooses two events to compete in. Industries such as
hospitality construction and culinary are represented.
of the big things that helps us out a lot is that we
have our own student run business here called Café
Arrowhead,” said Hough. “By virtue of that, we have to
jump through all the same hoops that local restaurants
do. We also have our annual lobster boil.”
Hough says a lot of the business savvy his students are
learning comes from the student-led cafe. Their skills
are helping them find jobs, even while still in high
school. About 75 percent of Hough’s students are
currently employed. The local Piggly Wiggly is a popular
spot for students to find success. The goal is to make
sure that students continue to find employment in their
specific areas of interest after school. Their goals run
“It’s funny because it (their interests) varies,” said
Hough. “It springboards into what they’re interested in.
I have young people interested in working in a business
setting and others interested in working with
alums also come back during the Special Education Job
Olympics to share in their success. This year, a
representative from the Holiday Inn who used to
participate in the Job Olympics was present.
Representatives from Waukesha County Technical College
were also available. Hough says he hopes to make
connections in the world of special event planning next.
The events at the Special Education Job Olympics change
each year and reflect what the students want to learn.
“Every year is a different year,” said Hough. “The young
people might have placed first this year, but you have
to work even harder to stay at that level. There’s
always a constant state of improvement.”