From Staff Reports

MARSHALL — Some Marshall ISD special needs students spent their summer learning new skills and earning money by working at area businesses through a Texas Workforce Commission program.

Marshall High School Life Skills students Jacob Jenkins, Makenzie Lane and Victoria Bozeman worked at Goodwill Industries and Holiday Inn Express.

The students were introduced to the Texas Workforce Commission’s SEAL (Summer Earn and Learn) program by their Marshall ISD Vocational Teacher Thecela Cooks, who just spent her third summer as a SEAL coordinator for the Texas Workforce Commission.

“SEAL allows students with varying disability levels to learn job skills while earning money,” Cooks said. “They worked for five weeks at minimum wage and were guaranteed up to 32 hours weekly.”

Marshall businesses, including the Boys & Girls Club of the Big Pines, Holiday Inn Express, Elisha’s Food For the Soul, Goodwill Industries, Graves Tire Shop, Cypress Place and Beauty Salon participated in the program that is in its third year statewide.

Cooks said employers are responsible for training their SEAL employees, but a state grant funds the students’ wages.

“Students were also provided with job coaches to provide the needed support,” Cooks said. “The communities have been so supportive in giving our students an opportunity that would not have been possible.”

The SEAL program is geared for students with disabilities ages 14 to 22.

Jacob and Makenzie spent their summer working at Goodwill, where they sorted donations and transferred products to the sales floor. Victoria worked in the laundry room of Holiday Inn Express, where she folded towels and sheets for guests.

The Marshall High School Life Skills students also are part of the 18 Plus Program, STEP (Successfully Transitioning Extraordinary People), Cooks said.