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Career builders

Kitsap Lake student Molly Rutherford picks up litter in front of the school as part of her landscaping job. She and other students work at the school to learn what it takes to get and keep a job. - Photo by Charles Melton
Kitsap Lake student Molly Rutherford picks up litter in front of the school as part of her landscaping job. She and other students work at the school to learn what it takes to get and keep a job.
— image credit: Photo by Charles Melton

They’re landscapers, library assistants, computer techs and office assistants. They’re also in elementary school.

Through the Eagle Employment agency, Kitsap Lake elementary students have learned about the inner workings of joining the workforce. They view job postings, file an application, go to an interview and, if hired, report to work on a regular basis.

They are also acquiring knowledge that can only be gained by working in the field.

“I’ve learned not to litter because it’s really gross to have to pick it up,” said Katie Sawyer, 11, who is a landscaper at the school. Once a week she, principal Lyle Burbidge and a couple of other students spruce up the landscaping by picking up litter and planting flower pots.

Other students help deliver messages from the office to students or assist in the lunchroom. All of the work is done during non-classroom time such as lunch or recess.

“I get bored because there is nothing to do at recess,” said Courtney Smith, 10. Her library assistant’s job keeps her occupied and she enjoys it.

Sarah Lane, 11, manages the school store and has learned to run a cash register and help younger students count money. Learning to balance work with other activities is something Alissa Miller, 11, had to do early on.

“You need to do your homework and turn it in on time,” she said, or else time on the job becomes time in study hall.

If students fail to report to work without explaining the circumstances, they are put on probation. Although it’s happened only once, students can also be fired. As in the real world students are asked to give two weeks notice.

Job openings are posted on a board near the office. When the job is filled the student’s picture and name is with their new title.

But it doesn’t look like any of the girls are going to leave their jobs anytime soon.

“I’m more outgoing. I know I could get a job now,” Sawyer said.

Tatiana Sweat, 11, said she is more confident since becoming a computer tech assistant.

The program, in its third year, is “designed to give children the skills and real work experience of seeking a job and holding on to it,” said Kim Kinyon, interventionist for the school. It also builds a sense of community within the school she said.

“We hire responsible kids who want to make this community a better place,” Kinyon said.

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