WELLSBURG — Maintaining a closet is one of the many ways students at Bruin Bridge Center, the Brooke County Schools Alternative Learning Center, have learned life skills.
And he’s stocked up a wide assortment of coats, hats, shirts, pants and other clothing for all ages, so the school is inviting anyone in need to stop by for some between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Thursday and Friday.
Visitors should press the intercom button at the front of the building, which is the old Wellsburg Middle School, and a staff member will let them in.
Michael Lewis, the school’s administrator, said students there learned to do laundry using a washer and dryer under the guidance of staff member Rebecca Kaniecki.
It’s one of many life skills taught to students, who also learned how to prepare healthy meals from AmeriCorps Life Bridge program member David Holden.
Holden shared the skills he learned earning a culinary arts degree from West Virginia Northern Community College and helped them earn food handler cards through the Brooke County Health Department and complete the ServSafe online food safety program for future restaurants and other food service managers. .
Holden said some worked in kitchens operated by catering companies at Bethany College and West Liberty University through a partnership with those schools.
He said the arrangement resulted in a donation of tableware from Bethany and he was in talks with the schools to receive other kitchen equipment.
Holden said the program also received input from chef Chris Kefauver, who directs the culinary arts program at West Virginia Northern Community College.
Holden noted that many restaurants are looking for workers right now, adding, “Whatever they do in the future, it gives them something to fall back on.”
He said learning to adapt to various workplaces will help them in the career they pursue.
“We have an exciting work program, and it falls into that,” said Lewis.
He said with the help of the Youth Services System of Wheeling, students at the school also got cleaning jobs at the Brooke County Schools bus garage and worked at local stores.
He said some had spent part of their school days in career tech programs at Brooke High School and had graduated.
It’s something teenagers might not have imagined when they were referred to the center, which was established years ago to serve students who, for various reasons, were not functioning well in a traditional classroom.
“It’s called the place of the bad kids. But we have very few discipline problems,” said Lewis.
He said difficult family lives are a common factor.
Noting that Holden also speaks to students about the dangers of opioid addiction, Lewis said, “Unfortunately, some of our students already know a lot. Some have lost their parents there.
Holden said some students help their grandparents or single parents look after their younger siblings. So when he teaches them how to prepare nutritious meals, it can benefit an entire household.
Lewis said about 70 students in grades 5 through 12 were attending school in person while more than 100 were receiving virtual instruction.
Regarding the latter, he said that some prefer to work from home and others do it while working full time.
Holden said he believes students benefit from the individual instruction available at the school.
Lewis said he and his staff made it clear that they cared about the students and tried to help them even after they finished their studies.
As an example, Holden cited a student interested in attending a technical school in Pittsburgh receiving advice from one of two CHANGE Inc. counselors who keep regular hours at school.
Lewis said each student has an individual learning plan that incorporates their own personal goals.
He said the school has received support from many leaderships, including Brooke County Superintendent Jeff Crook and Deputy Superintendent Corey Murphy; and various community programs and groups.
Among them is the Wellsburg Lions Club, which donated many coats to the clothes closet; and the Community of Christ Church in Follansbee, which regularly provided food for students to take home.
Lewis said, “One of the wonderful things about this community is that no one ever said no to me. If I say, it’s for the children, they say: “I’m in”.
(Scott can be contacted at [email protected])