Student participate in annual job olympics

McKayla Clark Snodgrass, Page Editor

Nearly two dozen Special Education students and peer mentors from Manhattan High demonstrated their job skills at the fourth annual Job Olympics competition last week. 

“It’s put on by different special education coordinators throughout the area,” Life Skills teacher Jamie Schnee said. “It’s just a cool opportunity for students to show off their skills and then also be able to build up to their job skills that all of us need.”

The event, which was held at the Kansas State University Recreation Center on March 3, brought in 17 high schools and over 100 students from the local area, including smaller programs from Wamego and St. Marys, to participate in competitions related to career and independent living success after high school. There were 27 stations with different skills for students to demonstrate their competency. Activities ranged from sorting items by color, to a job interview or acting as a hostess in a restaurant. 

“It was great. I thought it was amazing,” sophomore J.C. Colon Bonilla, who participated in the event, said. “I had never [done] anything like that, so I thought it was great. It was a fun time.”

Students could win first through third place prizes. Eight MHS students — sophomore Kaleb Gilbert, freshman Hannah Bivens, junior Noah Mercado, junior Austin Tomandl, freshman Tymir Chatman, senior Cheyenne McCabria, senior Kimberley Genandt and senior Allie Parker — earned medals. 

“It was good for them to see that sometimes your hard work does pay off, but sometimes it doesn’t,” Schnee said. “Not everybody won a medal, and I think that’s a good lesson. Sometimes you work hard and you still get to have fun but you just don’t get the reward.”

The Job Olympics was created in 2018 to address the low employment rate of people with special needs in the United States. 

“I am looking to work to feed my family,” Colonbonilla said. “[Job Olympics] can definitely help for my future.”

The Life Skills class at MHS also works to prepare students for jobs after high school. 

“A lot of what we do in our classes is getting students ready for what they’re going to do after high school,” Schnee said, “which is what everybody does here, but ours is a little more job or trade, vocational specific, to be able to give students some of that extra attention to be able to be successful in a job after high school and to be able to be self sufficient.”

The Job Olympics is just one part of building Life Skills for these students. 

“I just think that it’s so cool, the whole whole experience,” Schnee said. “Just getting to go out and show off your skills and have a little bit of competition with other students in the area is just really beneficial.”