At Toledo Learning Center Secondary, students in the Career-Based Intervention Program are learning about what it takes to make a “koalaty” product.
The Purple Koala T-shirt Company was founded this year by Job Coach Richard Perz and Assistant Director Joe Carone to give their CBI students an opportunity to gain valuable work experience while still in the classroom.
Using a heat press that Carone provided to get the program started, Perz supervises the entire manufacturing process from preparation to invoicing.
“Most of our orders have been school uniform shirts,” Perz said. For example, Dayton ordered 179 polo shirts, crew neck and hooded sweatshirts.
At $1 profit per shirt, the students are also learning how to reinvest profits into building a business. Senior Sean Rice does some of the heat press work but he actually prefers the folding operation. “I can sit down and do it away from the hot press,” Sean said. He said he is planning for a career in mechanical or industrial engineering because “I like using my hands and figuring things out.”
In addition to the printing operation, Sean does volunteer work on Tuesdays at Agility Angels, a dog agility company that works to create bonds between autistic kids and dogs. Sean said he knows it works because he personally experienced how dogs help develop social skills.
Perz said of the 12 students in the CBI program, a couple students volunteer outside the program and three students have paying jobs in the community. He estimated that about four more students are ready to take their skills to the community for paying jobs. “They’ve earned their stripes,” Perz said.
Senior Bianca Orzechowski is involved in the printing operation, cutting the labels or positioning them on the shirts before the heat process. But she also writes for The Summit Script, a weekly newsletter she produces with school secretary Wendy Hall and CBI English teacher Nicole Carone. Bianca said the hardest part of her job is keeping the newsletter filled with school news that interests the students and teachers.
But Bianca’s goal is to become a social worker and this CBI experience is helping her gain valuable skills.
“Working with other people helps me with my social skills,” Bianca said. “Working as a team, helping people, it’s a different type of experience. “
Bianca said she wants to start a degree in social work at Owens Community College. In fact, all the CBI students are already enrolled in two classes taught by Owens teachers: Personal Finance and Business Professionalism. They will receive five credit hours toward their college educations.
The collaboration between Owens and Summit Academy began back in 2008, when Joe Carone ran the dual enrollment program at Owens. So when he joined Summit Academy in August, starting a CBI program seemed like a natural fit. “I have always wanted high schools to be connected to colleges to show students that they can handle the course work,” Carone said.
With Perz as the CBI Program’s Job Coach, the students receive three CBI-related courses each day, including math and English. If the students have outside jobs, they leave at noon. The other students work 15 to 30-minute shifts, doing everything from the shirt business, cafeteria clean up, landscaping, vacuuming and building projects, until 2 p.m..
Senior Andrew Kurczewski enjoys his job holding the shirts in place on the heat press to prevent printing mistakes.
“It is fun to be a part of something like this,” he said. “But I’m thinking of going into electrical engineering. It’s what my dad does.”
In addition to her work with the printing shop, Senior Sara Wroblewski is an assistant in two art classes taught by Ashley Dueschle.
“I just love art, I love to draw and I love kids,” Sara said. “I’ve been at Summit Academy since the third grade.”
Although she is gaining valuable teaching experience, Sara said her goal is “to live internationally, to immerse myself in other cultures and live there for extended periods of time.”
Sara Wroblewski provides assistance to Isiah Vaughan.
Senior Johnathan Feemster takes his supervisory role in the printing operation seriously.
“I’m observing to make sure it is straight,” he said. In addition, he volunteers at a church food bank for work experience. But his ultimate career goal is in the culinary arts.
“I want to be a chef and I’m looking into culinary schools. I’ve been cooking with my mom and it’s pretty much second nature to me. If I eat something, I can probably tell you what’s in it.”