At the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, the district’s school nutrition department was facing an unprecedented staff shortage. In a brand-new partnership with the high school Work Based Learning program, Dalton Public Schools is filling those vacant positions using student workers.
Earlier this year, Wimberly Brackett, director of school nutrition, pitched the idea to Doug Shults and Larry Tripp, work-based learning coordinators at The Dalton Academy and Dalton High School.
“We were so short-staffed in every school,” Brackett said. “I just thought I would dip into the student pool to see who might be interested.”
For Shults and Tripp, there was an opportunity to provide a paid, work-based learning opportunity for students who might otherwise be unable to participate due to lack of transportation or scheduling conflicts.
“It was a good fit for our students that didn’t have transportation off-campus to do work-based learning,” Shults said. “It fits our needs for our students and it has a flexible schedule.”
This year, seven students from TDA and DHS are working to fill vacant positions at Hammond Creek Middle School, The Dalton Academy/Dalton Junior High School, Blue Ridge School and Dalton High School. Both the work-based learning and school nutrition departments are hopeful to recruit even more students for the 2022-2023 school year.
For students, this partnership provides a convenient and flexible work environment where they can learn work skills and earn money. In the cafeterias, students gain experience working on a team in a fast-paced environment.
“They’re learning employability skills that will transfer to any job and help them as they go into their careers,” Tripp said.
Maya Cedillo, senior at The Dalton Academy, is one of the students working in the DJHS/TDA cafeteria. She said she’s learned skills that she believes will help her in her future career.
“You learn how to do hard labor,” Cedillo said. “You have to be fast, you have to be clean, you have to be on time and follow the rules. You learn those simple things.”
Cedillo said she hopes to own her own business one day, and said she knows these skills will help her in her entrepreneurial pursuits.
For Brackett, the partnership between the school nutrition department and these student workers has been a huge success.
“It has gone great,” Brackett said. “I haven’t had any complaints from the managers, they’re just thankful to have people working. It’s been wonderful. It has made a huge difference.”
Next year, Brackett said they are hoping to recruit even more students to work in these paid positions. Any students who may be interested in learning more should reach out to Doug Shults (TDA) or Larry Tripp (DHS) for more information.