Students from 13 schools demonstrated their life skills and vocational abilities Friday during the Job Olympics at Great Bend High School’s Panther Activity Center.
This competition, open to any special education student in Kansas, is sponsored by the Barton County Transition Council and the Special Services Cooperative. Events at tables throughout the arena mimicked real job situations and life skills, such as food preparation, office work or automotive checking. There was event a contest for rolling or folding newspapers. The contests were divided into skill levels.
First-time competitor Danielle Perkins from Russell competed in a full slate of events. “I did flower arranging, wrapping presents, mail sorting and phone skills,” she said after her final event, advanced child care. For that event, Perkins worked with a baby doll, changing a diaper and preparing a bottle of formula. After completing the tasks, a judge quizzed her, asking, “If a 1 month old wakes up from an nap and has a wet diaper, what should you do?” and “Where should you store poisons?”
Perkins, who answered she would change the wet diaper and store poisons in a locked cabinet, said she might be interested in a career in child care.
Special education instructor Janet Thurow, who created the Job Olympics 19 years ago, said it helps students learn some skills to use, whether they get a job or not. Attending the events also helps students develop their social skills and is good for their self esteem. After a morning of competition, students returned from lunch to enjoy an afternoon dance, followed by an awards ceremony.
Whenever possible, the judges are community volunteers who work in areas related to the events, so they can give students some hints about the best way to do a particular job, Thurow said. Now that she’s been overseeing the Job Olympics for nearly two decades, some of her former students have also returned to judge events. “That’s cool,” she said. Regular education students from GBHS served as pages during the morning.
Thurow will retire this year but said she still plans to continue the Job Olympics for a 20th year in 2014.