By Associated Press - Friday, July 3, 2015

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Eight special education students have learned something about the workaday world, thanks to their month on duty at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium.

The students were part of an Omaha Public Schools program aimed at exposing students to job expectations and preparing them for future employment, according to the Omaha World-Herald ( ). Among the lessons: customer service, how to accept compliments from co-workers and what positive body language looks like.

The students weren’t paid, but they earned school credit. They reported at 7:30 a.m. and spent four hours at different jobs around the zoo: sweeping up mulch in the parking lot, working concessions, peeling apples and bananas for animal snacks.

One of the students, Zachery Torres, found it was hot, sweaty work in the zoo’s Desert Dome.

“This is his first experience ever at a job,” said his teacher, Chris Korth. “When he started off, after day two he was ready to throw in the towel. But as the days went on, he really embraced the job and takes a lot of pride in what he does for the zoo.”

Students can sign up for work-based learning experiences throughout the school year at roughly 50 employers that included hotels, grocery stores, Mutual of Omaha and Goodwill.

Most jobs for special education students used to be in food or janitorial services, said Omaha Public Schools’ special education director Kara Saldierna.

“We’re really trying to expand beyond that, so if students have interest in specific job fields, we can find jobs that match their interest,” Saldierna said.

“The nice part about being here at the zoo and all of our job sites is it’s live,” Korth said. “We can talk about it all we want in the classroom, but here it’s applied.”


Information from: Omaha World-Herald,

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