STEPHENS CITY — Five Sherando High School students were hard at work at Paladin Bar & Grill a few hours before the restaurant opened Thursday afternoon, wiping down tables, putting up umbrellas and tidying up.

The students are part of the Education for Employment Program, which is offered to any high school student in Frederick County. The class, taught by Sherando’s Career Connections teacher Michelle Madagan, helps prepare students for life after high school.

“The whole idea behind the program is getting students out into the community and getting them work experience,” Madagan said. “It can help them build their resumes and it gives them an opportunity to try jobs that they might be interested in. And we really enjoy our community partners. It gives us a chance to collaborate and get to know each other. It’s beneficial for both the community partners and for us and the students.”

Students get class credit for participating. There's some classroom instruction, where students learn essential skills such as communication, customer service and how to create a career portfolio that consists of a resumé, a cover letter and a personal fact sheet.

“When they leave class in June, they can take that and apply for any job they want,” Madagan said.

The skills don’t just interest older students who are already entering the workplace. Thursday’s class was mostly freshmen.

“When I signed up, I didn’t know what it was and I wanted to try something new,” Sherando freshman Ramiah Roman said in between wiping down restaurant chairs. “They explained that we were going to Paladin to clean and we’d also learn about job interviews, and I liked that. We get to learn about resumés and how to apply for jobs and colleges. I was happy about that, because I didn’t know how to do any of that. It’s a new experience. I think everybody should try this.”

Students get the chance to work in a variety of establishments throughout the course. They also participate in mock interviews and industry tours. And they get to hear from guest speakers.

“I wanted to experience multiple jobs so I could find out what I wanted to get into,” Sherando freshman Haley Ring said as she tidied up restaurant tables. “I like that I’ll have my resumé already set up and ready to start.”

It helps the partnering business, too.

“It’s great, especially right now. We’re short-staffed, and things can fall through the cracks,” Paladin owner Dan Myers said. “They do an amazing job, and they’ve been a huge help.”

“The servers come in and they’re so happy. There’s things that they can’t get to,” said Kate Martin, one of Paladin's three general managers. “When the kids have already done things, it helps not only the servers but the kitchen staff. The students are doing things that help everyone.”

Employers who want to learn more about the program should visit regionalchamber.biz/workforce-development or contact Missy McDonald-Spielman, Work-Based Learning Coordinator with Frederick County Public Schools.

— Contact Matt Welch at mwelch@winchesterstar.com

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