FINDLAY - Mike Leach and Josh Aldrich were digging up canna bulbs on the University of Findlay campus to store away for the winter.
Joyce Martin, Lyndia Raschecrump, and Angelina Might were inside the Alumni Memorial Union cutting and bagging Rice Krispie treats at The Cave, where students and staff stop in to get a bite to eat.
They might have looked like typical student workers, but there's a little more behind their early morning labor.
Mr. Leach and Ms. Martin are UF students working toward education degrees and licenses to work as intervention specialists with K-12 students who have mild to moderate disabilities. This semester, they are among 12 UF students serving as mentors and job coaches for 21 Findlay High School students who come to campus two days a week to log an hour of unpaid work and get a feel for what it's like to have a job.
"It's just a great experience getting to work with students from around the community," Mr. Leach, a senior from Monroe, said. "No two students are alike. Everyone has a different type of attitude. Every day is different."
If that sounds like a real-life experience for a future teacher, it's supposed to.
"It's another opportunity for them to work with students directly," said Susan Brooks, an assistant professor in the college of education who teaches the class. "One of the strengths of this college's program is that it gives lots of opportunities to work with children, not just student teaching."
The mentor program started seven years ago when JoAnn Welker, the work-study coordinator at Findlay High, inquired at the university about on-campus job training sites for students who spend part of their day at school and part of their day at work.
The discussions that ensued resulted in the creation of a program to introduce high school sophomores to the workplace and impart transitional teaching skills to the teachers in training.
"There's a huge emphasis right now in the state on transitioning from school to work," said Kathleen Crates, director of student services for Findlay City Schools. "They want to know that students are ready for the workplace."
The mutual benefit to the high school students and college students was not lost on 15-year-old Lyndia, who spent her first five weeks on campus working with the buildings-and-grounds crews and is now learning food preparation.
"We're all like helping each other," she said.
Her mentor has talked with her about following directions, dressing appropriately, having good attendance, and taking responsibility.
"I think it's neat," said her co-worker, Angelina, 16, who has never had a job before. "I like it."
In addition to working with the high schoolers, the UF students meet with the youths' parents at the beginning of the program and at the concluding banquet. Some meet with them in between too.
UF senior Sherrie Gillespie, who took the class last year, said the two students she mentored were interested in carpentry, so she arranged a visit to the Carpenters Local 1365 training center in Rossford. The students' fathers came along.
"The man who gave the tour really stressed their education," she said, adding that the students have contacted her for job references since their 10 weeks together last fall.
"That was neat," Ms. Gillespie said.
Contact Jennifer Feehan