Tuesday night’s annual staff vs. students tee ball game was definitely a “barn burner,” with the students defeating the staff (as they somehow manage to do every year) by a score of 16 – 3.
As winter gave way to spring, Junior Achievement (JA) branched out into new territory – the Pioneer Center. The JA provided materials for a 5 week course, which was led by Pioneer staff members John Hock, Director of Adult Services, and Art Nichols, Vocational Specialist. Kathy Ray, JA Liaison, played a crucial role in bringing the program to Pioneer. Kathy, who works with 10 school districts in Ross and Jackson County, helped get the project funded through the JA Board, headed by President William Beatty.
JA teaches young people about free enterprise, money management, and how business works so that they can successfully manage their finances once they become adults. At Pioneer, the program also serves to normalize the idea of working toward competitive employment just like every other high school student.
Pioneer student learned about topics ranging from the economy to credit scores through a variety of games and activities during the lessons. The topic for week one was “Getting to Know Yourself.” John Hocker started the session with a frame held tightly against his chest; “We’ve all heard, when it comes to getting a job, ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,’ right?” Mr. Hocker told the kids that the most important person for them to know was the person on the other side of the frame he held. One by one the kids guessed at the image that would appear when the frame was flipped. Guesses included the President Obama, Governor Kasich, Pioneer’s superintendent Rick Marriott, and so on. Smiles stretched across the students’ face as Mr. Hocker revealed the mirror that was on the other side of the frame.
The Junior Achievement course is just one way Pioneer is implementing the Employment First Initiative, a program being heavily supported by Governor Kasich. The program emphasizes the importance of employment and people with developmental disabilities, with the goal of full integration into their communities.
Last Friday, the Pioneer Center partnered with U.C.T. for the 25th time for the Annual Fish Fry. The event was held at the Pioneer Center, where current students mingled with Pioneer alumni, as well as other individuals who are part of the Pioneer family. Individuals from Pioneer, Goodwill, First Capital Enterprises, Frontier Options, and Frontier Community Services were in attendance.
There were plenty of activities to accompany the food. Old movies that were shot at the school were shown in the home training room. There was also Wheel of Fortune, where individuals competed for their favorite candy bar. The event was capped off with a dance, held in the gymnasium.
The day was especially eventful for Kaylee Trent, a 14 year old student at the Pioneer Center who spent the day serving as the Assistant Director of Communications. Kaylee interviewed staff, students, and alumni throughout the day. She asked them questions about their favorite part of Fish Fry day, and how many years they had attended the event. The responses she recorded are too numerous to list here, so allow me to summarize: For many individuals, this was their first time attending the fish fry, while others were seasoned veterans. The most seasoned of which reported that this was their 32nd fish fry! Overwhelmingly, regardless of age or occupation, Kaylee heard that the favorite part of fish fry day was having the opportunity to interact with old friends.
You would be hard pressed to find someone who agreed with the axiom “not everyone can be a winner” last Friday at the Stanly L. Evan’s Athletic and Recreation Field in Rio Grande, the site of the 2013 Regional Special Olympics.
The Special Olympics were hosted by the University of Rio Grande. The Pioneer School held a strong presence, with 31 students participating in the event. In all, more than 500 students from a dozen schools took part in the event.
“It’s a great opportunity for the kids to come together with Pioneer alumni and friends they’ve made in other school districts in a unique setting at a large venue,” said Carol Uhrig, a Pioneer School teacher. This was Carol’s final trip to the Special Olympics as a Pioneer faculty member; she’s retiring at the end of this school year, after 35 years. The Pioneer’s annual trip to Rio Grande was a staple at the school even before Carol came on board.
The Special Olympics began taking shape in the 1950’s, spearheaded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver. The event, which began as a day camp in Shriver’s backyard, grew into a full-fledged movement. Throughout the 1960s, Eunice continued her pioneering work – both as the driving force behind President John F. Kennedy’s White House panel on people with intellectual disabilities and as the director of the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation.
The Special Olympics’ long and storied lineage has certainly stood the test of time. Or, in modern terms, “it’s kind of a big deal.” As soon as basketball season wraps up, the kids start looking forward to it.
For the past 4 years, in preparation for the Special Olympics, the students from Pioneer head over to Herrnstein field, where they receive training from the CHS Track & Field team days before this big event. This mentorship began thanks to collaboration between CHS Track Coach Dana Cousins and Patti Smith. Patti is a teacher at Pioneer, and mother of star Shot Put thrower Curt Smith who now competes for OSU.
The training paid off. The Pioneer School brought home 12 gold, 16 silver, 7 bronze medals, and a slew full of shiny new ribbons.
It’s the involvement of dedicated educators, coaches, and community partners like these that make everyone feel like a winner.