EAST LIVERPOOL - For students in the Job Training Program (JTP) at East Liverpool High School, their motto, "Whatever it takes...no excuses," is much more than a platitude. For them, it is a way of life.
At the 11th annual Employer Appreciation Breakfast last week, the students and their ceaseless efforts to become productive citizens were recognized, along with the sponsors, employers, school staff and family members who help them achieve those goals.
The class borrowed the "Whatever it takes...no excuses" motto of city Mayor Jim Swoger a few years back and students have striven to meet that goal ever since.
This is not necessarily an easy thing for the students in the JTP, who have a variety of physical, academic and emotional challenges they must overcome to acquire their goals.
In addition to a candy-making business they operate from their classroom, the students have undertaken other projects, as well as working in the community for businesses that also help them meet their goals.
"Today's event would not be possible without the belief that others care about making a difference for our students," Coordinator Pam Gerace told the crowd at United Brethren Church, whose pastor Joe Cilone and his wife Kay figured in her praise.
Gerace said that 2014 is the "year of paying it forward," noting, "We believe that you continue to pay it forward each and every day by supporting our students in the world of work, independent living and in their community."
A dozen businesses and agencies were recognized by Gerace, who said, "You change schedules, provide employee mentors, role model employability skills, offer advice and make accommodations to jobs that match our students' skills, interests and abilities. You take ownership in the program and provide valuable that helps them make informed decisions about their lives. You remind them that they need to set goals that are high, yet realistic. Without you, employment opportunities for our students would be limited," Gerace said of these employers.
As for her students, Gerace said, "Our students learn every day about transition and what it takes to be successful. Not only have our kids embraced the strong work ethic in the program, but they raised the bar be embarking on a new endeavor to show others that their contributions are valuable."
She related how the students planned, organized, marketed and raised funds to put on a public book giveaway recently, in which more than 1,000 children who attended received at least one new book.
Recognized for working on the project were students Cole Cope, Sha'Cara Ford, Sadie Gamble, Sheri Grimm, Ashley Hackathorn, Mark Love, Jesse Myers, Rebecca Oiler, Zack Petty, Christopher Valentine and Daniel Wilcox.
During the breakfast, student Sheri Grimm was recognized as trainee of the year, with Gerace commending her for an outstanding work ethic and a drive to always do her best work.
Grimm arranges her own transportation through CARTS and comes in on her days off, according to Gerace, who said she completed job training at several area businesses and serves as her personal assistant, paid through grants funds from East Liverpool City Hospital to assist with the candy making operations.
Employee of the year honors went to Dennis Bishop, who has worked at EDI South since 2010, doing parts assembly and supply, janitorial and housekeeping work, as well as working in the after hours lawn care crew and assisting others with odd jobs.
"This young man has never let his physical disability keep him from being a successful employee. He continues to make sure those around him are successful as well," Gerace said of Bishop.
The Midland Borough School District was named advocate of the year, recognized for supporting the JTP's candy business, the book giveaway and showcasing the program's best practices to the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
Social graduates of the program Rebecca Hall and Kenneth Jones were also recognized for continued success in reaching their employment and independent living goals after completing the JTP.
Those businesses and agencies that have supported the program include: Calcutta Health Care Center, Columbiana County Board of Developmental Disabilities, East Liverpool City Hospital, EDI South, L&B Donuts, Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School, Mahoning and Columbiana Training Association, Midland Borough School District, National Network of Digital Schools, Vocational Rehabilitation Public & Private Partnerships 3 and the YMCA.