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Partnering to teach lifelong skills

Article and photo by Julie Matuszewski; photo courtesy of Jessica Bird

Photo of Rock Canyon High School Significant Support Needs class

Students of the Rock Canyon High School Significant Support Needs class are ready for their weekly cleaning assignments. Co-teachers Theresa Crump (back left) and Jessica Bird (far right) assist and chaperone the students during their cleaning shift at Duke’s Steakhouse in Castle Pines.

Landing the first job, living independently, paying the bills and cleaning house are all life skills we learn and acquire throughout our lifetime. Many of these skills came as a result of that one person, group or organization that believed in us and our abilities. Duke’s Steakhouse and Rock Canyon High School (RCHS) are partnering to be that someone in the lives of local teens.

Neil Minarick, owner of Duke’s Steakhouse, and his staff believe in the RCHS Significant Support Needs (SSN) class, their abilities and work ethics. The SSN class is a group of highly diverse learners with extensive needs in one or more of the following areas: cognition, learning, communication, movement, and social and emotional abilities. Individualized levels of support across major life activities in the home, school and community provide these students with lifelong lessons and skills which contribute to their ability to learn important job skills and live independently.

SSN students visit Duke’s twice a month on a rotation to clean the restaurant, which can include wiping tables, chairs and booths as well as vacuuming. The support Duke’s provides SSN has taught these students skills for living independently, while also teaching them important job skills.

Photo of Juliana Ficht

Pictured right: Junior Juliana Ficht enjoys working at Duke’s because it makes her feel good.

The students love to go to Duke’s. They are responsive, curious and open to learn, as well as pay special attention to detail. Not to mention, they also love the fountain drinks provided after their shift.

Duke’s day manager takes great pleasure in working with the kids and the RCHS staff. The professionalism, dedication, and love for the students that the teachers and assistants show, has always impressed Minarick and his staff. The students themselves are a joy to Duke’s. They have fun but also take their jobs seriously. Doing things right, including the little things, is a big part of what these students learn. Their desire to complete every task to perfection has inspired Minarick and his staff.

Junior Juliana Ficht enjoys wiping down tables and chairs. She says it makes her feel good, and ninth grader Eddie Barela loves to vacuum. He shared that when he gets a house of his own, he will know how to clean it. Juliana, Eddie and all participating students are grateful for this opportunity and hope to continue skill building at Duke’s for many years to come.

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