Arrowhead students take first at Special Education Job Olympics

By Ashley Haynes - Freeman Staff

Feb. 13, 2018

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

TOWN 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.”

A 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.

“One 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 the gamut.

“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 computers.”

AHS 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.”