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KCSD’s co-op program offers hands-on experience for Bucktail seniors

KEVIN RAUCH/FOR THE EXPRESS Conner Mason has been working with Vince Tarantella and the Renovo Borough, including learning how to use and maintain the salt spreader so that it’s ready to go at a moments notice.

RENOVO — Keystone Central School District’s Cooperative Education Program has given students the opportunity of a myriad of work structures, allowing them a chance to see what a possible career choice would offer them in their future endeavors beyond high school.

Keystone Central School District’s Daci Killinger is the current Cooperative Education Coordinator and said that in the three and half years she has served in that position the 25 students enrolled in the program this year is the most that she has seen at this point in the school year. Seven of those students are Bucktail seniors.

These programs offer and invaluable hands-on approach that gives students the ability to see if a career in a chosen field is what they want to concentrate on.

As varied as the students that choose to participate, the occupational program offers four types of work experiences for students to choose from. They could just be for a day or two of job shadowing or a legitimate paid experience with all of the makings of what a career would look like.

The program starts with a job shadowing, available for students from 9th-12th grades. The entry level program allows a student to observe a position for 1-2 days and gets a small experience in a 2-4 hour span, where they can monitor a particular profession to help them with future choices.

KEVIN RAUCH/FOR THE EXPRESS Bucktail senior Nicole Embick has spent part of her school days working at Top Calls, as she is seen here stacking latex for a mouth call.

The next level is an internship in which students participate in a six-week, unpaid program. An internship allows 10th-12th graders to get a hands-on approach. Participants serve 40-45 total hours in the program.

The Capstone Co-Op is a paid program for 11th and 12th grade students that are enrolled in a career technical education program. These programs include trades such as cosmetology and construction and acts as an extension of KCSD’s school training offered through career and technical education programs.

The Diversified Occupations Program (DOP) gives seniors a work experience where they are not only being paid for their on the job experience but also often even have upward mobility to those that earn it.

Hours of work beyond school hours are often offered as well. Businesses such as McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts have offered shift leads to those students whose work efforts excel and earn them such a promotion.

Bucktail students Zack Pick has been working with The Service Garage, Conner Mason and Yorick Smith with the Renovo Borough and Dylan Cross and Evan Schoonover have spent their time with the Bucktail Medical Center. Four of the five are enrolled in the DOP and one in Capstone. Fellow Bucktail 12th grade student Julie Green has been serving an internship at Renovo Elementary and Nicole Embick has been interning at Top Calls.

Despite the invaluable work experience that the students are receiving, Killinger is quick to point out that student’s schoolwork comes first. In fact doing well is a requirement to be able to participate.

“The students have to have good attendance and have a minimum 80% GPA, which is something that is explained to them in 9th and 10th grade so they know that they need to meet a certain threshold to continue with the program as they get older,” Killinger explained. “This is basically a chance for students to experience a possible career path that’s not specifically available in our tech education programs in school, they aren’t only seeing what a future career may look like but we also start showing them what it’s like to be a good, reliable employee.”

Conner Mason has been working with Vince Tarantella, the borough’s streets and parks supervisor. It would be hard to find a student getting a more varied experience of tasks.

Tarantella’s enthusiasm for teaching his tricks of the trade are only matched by his quick wit and years of experience in the maintenance field. This includes what his years of experience from being retired from the military and Allenwood Prison.

“Raking leaves and picking up trash is part of the job so he’s doing that, but I really try to get him doing more of the things where he’s learning new skills, challenging him as much as I can,” said Tarantella.

“He’s learned how to use the dump truck, bucket truck, done some woodworking, built the skate rink in the park, learned how the plows and plow guards work, this isn’t stuff most eighteen-year-old kids are doing,” Tarantella continued.

Conner agreed that he’s learned “anything and everything” from Vince, noting that operating both the dump truck and the bucket truck have been his favorite things to this point.

Keeping the salt truck clean and ready to roll out has been the highest priority for the two of them recently but Tarantella also has Mason preparing for spring.

A picnic table was torn down to just the bare metal frame before the student put all new wood back into place, basically making it new. Mason will soon be assisting Tarantella to run a heating and cooling system on the second floor of the borough building.

Conner is typically with Vince during the week from 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m. In addition to working during the day Mason has maintained his part time job working at Service Garage as a gas attendant.

Senior Julie Green is planning a career in teaching, so she has been paired up with Renovo Elementary teacher Marjie Stone.

Stone immediately lauded praise upon her understudy.

“Julie is a very enthusiastic and eager student who has immersed herself into the field of education,” Stone says of the high school senior. “She is extremely motivated to help students learn and achieve at all academic levels.”

“Being able to have this experience to work with kindergarten kids and an amazing teacher like Marjie has been truly a blessing,” Julie says of her in class experience. “I love seeing the kids everyday with their big smiles when they see me, working with them one on one and getting to know them more and more is what I love most about doing this.”

Nicole Embick also looks forward to school now more than ever since she can help Top Calls, a locally owned business that specializes in turkey calls.

Nicole said that she enjoyed coming to work every day and learning something new. Her favorite part of the job is being part of the team and getting the calls done and ready to ship. The Sutliff family has made Embick’s experience possible.

In talking with the mentors and the students participating in cooperative education program, it’s obvious that the students are learning life skills far beyond their years, and their having fun and often getting paid doing so.

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