Students build life skills at PIT

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Abigail Storm has a big dream: to create a mall for animal lovers.

The Partners in Transition student imagines a mall with a pet store, a bookstore, a groomer and a bakery where pet owners could relax.  

Or maybe, she says, she will become a dog groomer or a veterinary technician instead.

“I’m kind of into the animals,” she says.

Abigail Storm works in the WHS cafeteria.

Right now Storm is learning skills that could make these goals possible. She is a student in the PIT program.

Designed to teach life skills to special education students ages 18 to 21, PIT is run by Woodland in partnership with ESD 112 and draws students from Ridgefield, La Center and Kalama. This is the fourth year it has been run out of a little house across from the High School-Middle School campus. Seven students are currently enrolled.

“We are very lucky for a district this small to have a program this viable,” said PIT teacher D’Ann Horrocks.

PIT focuses on life skills that enable independence and studies that help young people succeed at work. They learn to take care of the house and yard, and they write resumes, practice interviewing and are coached in what it takes to be a good employee.

“Lifelong activities is what it’s all about,” Horrocks said. “We work really hard to give them the training they need to be as independent as possible.”

The PIT group heads out on a hike.

Along the way, the students run PIT-based businesses. They make and sell dog treats, they do car detailing, and they offer a grocery shopping service.

“I don’t want these guys to leave school and not have a skill,” Horrocks said.

The students use the skills they are learning to raise money for outings and other endeavors. Currently Storm works one day a week in the Woodland High School cafeteria.

“I enjoy it, stuffing the food in bags and boxes, putting it on shelves,” she said.

But the PIT program isn’t all about work. Horrocks is a big believer in playing too. She and her teaching team take the students to malls, libraries and activity centers, and they oversee a spring driving trip to the Gorge—all planned by the students at their home base, just off campus.

“This little house makes a big difference,” Horrocks said.