Two local high school students are gaining valuable job skills and building relationships at a Sherwood Park seniors facility.
 
The grades 11 and 12 students are enrolled in a work experience course at Next Step Junior Senior High School in Sherwood Park. As part of its work experience program, the school collaborates with area businesses such as automotive shops, restaurants and medical offices to match students up with job opportunities that fit their future career plans.
 
Bedford Village, an independent living complex for seniors, hired the Next Step students to work as dietary aides. The two teenagers now have shifts two or three days a week taking meal orders, assisting residents at mealtimes and helping out with cleanup.
 
“Part of our role as educators is to prepare students for life after high school,” said Kristin Oleksyn, Next Step’s off-campus education teacher. Oleksyn, who’s spearheading the project, said it gives students the chance to experience real-life work situations while also being supported by the school.
 
Students earn one high school credit for every 25 hours they work. Credits can also be earned during summer months, with the jobs sometimes leading to longer-term positions.
 
“Often students will translate that work experience course into a position that lasts much beyond what they need for high school," said Kris Reid, acting principal at Next Step.
 
Grade 12 student Kiera Bandura is happy to be participating in the program. “Discovering that this job could open doors to other opportunities when I graduate is exciting,” she said. “I’m looking forward to learning and growing in my new position.”
 
Reid said that connecting with an older generation gives students perspectives they normally don’t get in their own peer groups.
 
"And it also allows the seniors to be able to make connections with younger people that often can bring a lot of joy and life to their lives as well.” he added. “So it's a really great community connection as well as the work experience."

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