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Census Bureau Offers Workplace Experiences for Olympic's Exceptional Students

(May 25 , 2005) On most Tuesdays and Thursdays three or four students from Olympic High School's Exceptional Children Program are at the U. S. Census Bureau's Charlotte Regional
gaining real workplace experience.

Several years ago staff at the Charlotte Census Office, which is located off Beam Road in the Steele Creek Community, were looking for an opportunity to become more active in the community. Inquiries to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools led to the Exceptional Children Program at Olympic. The school was looking for opportunities to expose students to a variety of workplace environments.

Jim Williams is co-chair of the Exceptional Children Program and teaches self-contained cross-categorical classes at Olympic High School. He says:

My Occupational Preparation classes have been studying a number of career related topics this year. We have looked at a number of topics including career exploration, the job search, application completion, resumes, interview skills, and job etiquette to name just a few. Most of my students are following an Occupational Course of Study track and working toward an OCS diploma. The students must complete all required coursework, a portfolio, and hundreds of hours of actual school based/community based/competitive employment. We regularly take students to various work locations including the U. S. Census Bureau, TJ MAX, BI-LO, and Parks and Recreation to attain these hours. The students learn a great deal about real "world of work" issues and tasks. This helps the students and also provides the company with valued volunteer labor.

The Charlotte Census Office manages operations for ongoing surveys as well as the decennial census in a five-state region. Census staff work with information about survey and census respondents that are confidential by law. The Olympic program was reviewed by the Census Security Office to ensure that confidential census information, including addresses and survey questionnaire responses, would not be compromised.

Students perform a variety of tasks essential to census operations, including opening and sorting incoming mail, assembling packets for mail outs, counting materials, sorting and storing supplies, and assembling boxes. If office staff have a meeting, the students also attend, including one held during a visit by the Census Bureau's Associate Director for Field Operations.

This is the third year of the program at the Census Bureau. About 20 students total have participated this academic year. Most are juniors and seniors. They usually come three or four at a time, but more come for special occasions, such as the end of the year party last week. Teachers Jim Williams and Kathie Cooper accompany the students.

Ellen Whitaker, a survey supervisor who works with teachers to schedule visits and assignments, said "We find the program rewarding." She enjoys seeing improvement in the students over the course of the year.

Alvetta Massenberg of the Administration staff is happy for the help because it frees her up for other tasks. "They always do a good job," she said.

Wanda Williams, who has had students help her out in her survey, said "They are always eager to work and do it well. You only have to show them one time. They are excited about the work and take to the challenges." She looks forward to their visits.

On Tuesday May 17 Census Bureau staff gave an end of year party for the students. Every student was recognized for their efforts with certificates and seniors were given gifts donated by the staff. Everyone enjoyed the wonderful refreshments and conversations.

On Monday May 23rd a group of students from Mr. Williams' and Mrs.
Kyei-Ffordjour's classes were scheduled to take a trip to tour the Bank of America City Center and Corporate Center and shadow employees there. They planned to dine at Lunch by the Greens, tour Founders Hall, and return to school. "These students have grown so from such experiences this year and my heart felt thanks go out to the Steele Creek area community for all the generosity you have shown to the fine students here at Olympic over the years," Williams said.

For more information on the Exceptional Children Program at Olympic High School, contact Jim Williams by phone at 980-343-3800 or by e-mail to james.williams@cms.k12.nc.us. Olympic High School is located at 4301 Sandy Porter Road, Charlotte, NC 28273.


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