Gladstone Secondary Grade 11 student Angelo Martinez and Grade 12 student Mark Fernandez were ecstatic to kick off a work term with Dueck Automotive.
"When they told me I was going to work at Dueck, I was really excited," said Martinez, who said he hoped the industry would help him build his confidence. The feeling was mutual for Fernandez.
"I felt more comfortable and independent," said Fernandez.
By accepting both students with special needs with open arms, staff say Dueck has helped expand the VSB Work Experience program.
During their work experience, Dueck staff said that both students left a good impression on both the employers and employees. During their term, both boys washed and vacuumed each car as though they were brand new. Dueck staff said Martinez and Fernandez demonstrated that they could thrive in the industry.
"It's an important part of the business. The customer has just spent all this money on their car, and when they're driving away after paying their bills, we want to send them off in a nice clean car. Both students do a really good job at what they do," said the manager at Dueck.
Learning Assistance Lifeskills teacher Karen Ostrom has taught at Gladstone for the past three years. During that time, she watched Martinez and Fernandez, grow and develop into young mature adults. Ostrom says that while the Lifeskills program is preparing the students academically, socially, and emotionally, work experiences like those at Dueck help the students gain valuable professional experience.
"Working at Dueck is just another positive stepping stone for the both of them" said Ostrom.
Staff say that the boys' work experience at Dueck is further helping break barriers and open doors for an inclusive society for all. They say that Fernandez and Martinez's experience is particularly relevant given today is United Nations International Day for People with Disabilities.
Created by the United Nations in 1992, the day is aimed at promoting an understanding of disability issues and is also aimed at mobilizing support for dignity, rights, and well-being for people with disabilities.
It is a date that teachers like Ostrom believe is epitomized by the VSB's Work Experience and the Learning Assistance Life skills Program.
Story and photos courtesy of Van Tech student Akilaa Ashokkumar