BEYOND FUNCTIONAL A look at the West Wing Educational Program BY EMILY KREITER
PHOTOS BY//SARAH DIRKS
hey’ve been called a lot of things. Special. Challenged. Handicapped. But what about just calling them kids? High school students. Friends. The West Wing Functional Program teaches students with mental disabilities to be much more than functional, but to be a wide and deep presence around West High. “A school like this allows a lot of opportunities to present themselves and makes it happen,” said Steve Merkle, West High’s Special Programs coordinator. From making mons t e r
cookies to helping West High go green, the functional program students play a role in each West High students’ life, no matter how small.
Twelve years ago, West High was recognized for being a green school for starting a recycling program, a fairly new concept at the time. Since then, the recycling program has grown into a larger program that meets every day during fifth period. The class, with the help of student volunteers, picks up all the bottles, cans, and papers that are collected each day in various classrooms. The students divide the school up into four routes to pick up recyclables from classrooms and sort them to be taken to the recycling center. Charmel Davis ’13 is an active participant in recycling class. “Charmel works and runs his own route all by himself,” said Merkle. “He doesn’t need any help. He likes the inde-
pendence, right?” “Yeah,” said Davis. “I like sorting and recycling.” “We create projects that teach vocational skills so students can be independent workers. There are all sorts of skills we work on, from memorizing the route to even organizing the route and being totally independent in all the skills necessary to complete the route. Get the paper, put in its proper channels, and the plastics and the tin cans, we even sort the cans that are worth money from the cans that aren’t worth money to take to the can shed,” Merkle said. Much of the money raised from the Recycling Class goes towards buying more recycling bins for the school.
With fruit from the music department, Girl Scout Cookies and Boy Scout popcorn, it’s easy to overlook smaller organizations trying to package and sell their own goods. Despite the competition, West High’s Production Class has been working hard to hold their own in the market. The class makes a wide array of
products, from monster cookies to cedar lawn chairs. “I like making chairs. I like putting things together,” Davis said. “I started [the class] around ten years ago, and we just started out making some cookies and my goal was that they would sell them to pay for the ingredients so we could continue to do it. [We do it] as a production line to give them production skills and vocational training, working in a plan where you would have an assigned task and you’d have to complete that and as the group does each task, you produce a final product. That’s what Production Class is all about, and I’ve found that we can really make almost anything on that principle,” Merkle said. The students have created their own sales brochure to sell their goods to all who are interested. The class discusses quality control, as well as research and design of various products. Still in the works is a coffee shop to replace the school store that was disestablished at the end of last year. “It’s being coordinated through the BPA. City High has had a successful one for years, and we’re probably not going to follow