Working for a paycheck

Brian Sokol/Nevada Appeal Sophomore Adam Wungnema, 15, makes a transaction with Student Teller Jenny Lau, 17, at the Nevada Credit Union's Educational Branch in Carson High School on Friday.

Brian Sokol/Nevada Appeal Sophomore Adam Wungnema, 15, makes a transaction with Student Teller Jenny Lau, 17, at the Nevada Credit Union's Educational Branch in Carson High School on Friday.

Most students don't receive a paycheck as part of their classes at Carson High School.

But Adam Wungnema and Rachael Irwin do.

The special-education students, 17 and 21, respectively, are among a group of 10 at Carson High who participate in a work program meant to provide them with practical experience in the work world.

"I think it's a really good program for these kids," said Carol Ruff, assistant job coach for the work program. "They can develop skills that help them after school. That's the goal - for them to be able to have some kind of employment after high school."

Friday was payday. Adam and Rachael, two of the four students in second-period class, filled out time cards covering the past two weeks, then went to Greater Nevada Credit Union at the high school to deposit paychecks for the period before.

"I love Friday," Adam laughed. "TGIF."

They both signed their checks, provided their account numbers, and showed identification. Rachael, who has been in the program since 16, has built up her savings, some to spend for Western Nevada Community College, the other for a former boss, and the remainder for Christmas.

She hopes to take typing in college - "not math" - and her schedule now at Carson High School includes oceanography, reading, choir and government. She wants to be a teacher's assistant, and Friday read the sports section of a newspaper as Ruff talked about the work program. Rachael can stay at Carson High School until her 22nd birthday. Afterwards, she plans to work at Wal-Mart.

"Not full-time," she quipped.

Adam takes classes in math, reading and physical education at Carson High. Because he's been in the program just a year, his account isn't near Rachael's amount, but it is growing. He wants to save to buy a Play Station III.

"Put Xbox 360," he said, changing his mind.

At Albertson's, he's learned how to grind coffee, wrap doughnuts and rolls, and sweep the floor. Rachael, who has worked at Evergreen at Mountain View Residential, the Department of Motor Vehicles, Wal-Mart and Albertsons over the years, knows how to open envelopes and remove the contents, clean bedrooms and wipe mirrors and sinks. Other locations participating in the program are Friends in Service Helping, Alie's Flowers and Carson High. One student is allowed to walk to Carson City Florist.

Each day, four students in first period, four in second and two in third are taken by van to sites accompanied by Ruff and Patricia Mowery, transition program specialist. Students spend about an hour a day at each job with Fridays off - sometimes a field trip is planned, like the upcoming one to the Nevada Railroad Museum.

Ruff and Mowery stay with the students at the job sites to make sure they're acquainted with their responsibilities and later leave them to work on their own.

"They start at one place and as they go through the program they rotate to another one so that they learn different skills each year," Ruff said.

The district contributes to the cost of the program - including student salaries. Other agencies, including the school, help cover the difference. There are roughly 320 special-ed students at Carson High, and more could be in the program if there were more resources.

Special-ed comprises the severely and profoundly disabled, the learning disabled, and the health, visual and hearing-impaired. They are approximately 12 percent of the 2,557 student population at Carson High.

"We've got really good people here," said Dena Minton, coordinator of the special-Ed program. "You've got to be dedicated. You've got to love this job."

The school is beginning to streamline special-Ed students into regular world history and science classes this year and more streamlining is expected next year.

"A lot of parents do move to Carson City because of the (special-ed) programs we have here," Minton said. "I'm not talking just at the high school, I mean at the middle schools and elementary schools as well."

The 10 students participating in the work program are recommended by their teachers, and generally do not require one-on-one assistance in daily activities.

"For me personally, (what I like about this program) is that I'm not in the school all day long," Ruff said. "I get to be with the students. They're nice and they've been wonderful to work with. I enjoy that I'm helping them possibly start a future after high school."

n Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at or 881-1219.


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