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A chance to shine
Students show off work skills in Job Olympics
new deh job olympics 2
A participant takes part in the 17th-annual Job Olympics held Friday at Great Bend High School. The event offers students with special needs the chance to compete in work-related competitions. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

The Olympics came to Great Bend Friday.
No, not those Olympics. These games offered participants the opportunity to show off their work and vocational skills.
These were the 17th-annual Job Olympics, sponsored by the Barton County Transitional Council and Barton County Special Services. The arena was the Great Bend High School’s Panther Activity Center.
“Job simulations are used to create job situations,” said Transition Council Chairperson Janet Thurow. Judges are people from the business community and teachers who evaluate each contestant.
“Through the Job Olympics experience, the students face simulated and actual situations found in the job world,” Thurow said. “These contests can illustrate for the students how they can compete in the work force.”
The Olympics also allow participants, who are special education students, the chance to improve social skills, interact with actual employers and receive feedback on their performances. In addition, Thurow said, “new friendships can be made, self esteem can be raised and students may become more confident.”
The gymnasiums of the PAC were filled with tables as the competitors took their turn at each station. Some of the events included automotive checking, carpentry, custodial, floral basket design, food preparation, job applications and interviews, keyboarding, money skills, office work, pet care, taking orders, recycling stocking selves and others. The contests are divided into skill levels.
But, Thurow said, it benefits more than the students. Teachers can use the Olympics to set life-skill goals, motivate students and evaluate individuals on their performance. Business people see the students’ job skills and the advantages of working with them in a positive light, and have the chance to help teach what is necessary to be successful in the workplace.
Open to any high school special education student in Kansas, students from schools throughout central and western parts of the state took part. Schools attending were Chapperal, Garden City, Great Bend, Kingman, Larned, Lyons, Pratt, Russell, Salina Central, Sharon Learning Center, Skyline, Smoky Valley and St. John.