Job Skills Program teaches special education students valuable lessons


KALISPELL, Mont. - At Glacier High School the special education program is teaching its students valuable life lessons by giving back to the community.

When the school first opened 10 years ago special education teacher Chris Cusker was one of the school's first hires. And almost immediately after that he started the Job Skills Program.

"The Job Skills Program is all set up for special education students, how we're moving kids forward after high school. It's probably our biggest focus we have for these kids. What's the next step after high school," Cusker said.

Students in the program work at a food bank, a soup kitchen, a thrift store and even deliver newspapers, among other tasks.

NBC Montana went along for the ride as they dropped off their collection of recycled goods Friday.

Students say the program gives them opportunities they previously didn't have.

"It's fun because I didn't have these opportunities in middle school at all. So I wasn't able to get out as much as I am now. I wasn't really able to, you know, hang out with some really cool people and go and help out around the community," student Ryan Call said.

Call says the program has raised his confidence and prepared him to take on the job market in the future.

He says it feels rewarding to put in a good day's worth of work.

And program participants are rewarded for all their work at the end of each semester.

"Once a semester we take the whole class out to lunch. So this semester we're going to go to the HuHot. It's our semester final, and all the kids will go, so we spend the money back on the kids," Cusker said.

Cusker says he brought the program over from Flathead High School, which has been doing it for over 35 years now.