students from life skills course posing

At West Haven High School, teacher Carissa Anastasio is helping juniors and seniors work on life skills that prepare them to become independent and a contributing member of society.

“This program has become much more than I had ever anticipated,” said Mrs. Anastasio. “The students truly enjoy learning how to cook, bake, count money, take inventory, and shop at the store. The students are so respectful and are always trying their hardest every day. I could not be any prouder of the young adults they are becoming, and I cannot wait to see what they are able to create next year!”

The four-course Life Skills program begins with ‘Life Skills I’ and ‘Internship I’ where students work on interpersonal skills, solving problems, managing money, achieving success in the workplace, and cooking and cleaning. They also make trips to stores, as needed, to stock the classroom, and will participate in fun community outings to work on behavioral and social skills in leisure settings.

After completing the ‘Life Skills I’ and ‘Internship I’ courses, students move into ‘Life Skills & Internship II’ which is designed for them to develop employability skills for securing employment. The students work at job sites in the school setting such as the coffee cart, food pantry, school store, bulletin boards, etc. They also complete job interest inventories, simulated job interviews, and job applications.

Students can remain in the Life Skills and Internship Program until their 22nd birthday. For the students that come back, known as senior-plus students, they will have more internship experiences outside of the school building. These opportunities will include helping with elementary school field day, recess monitors, and running the coffee cart at the elementary schools.

During the ‘Life Skills & Internship II’ courses, students look to improve their employability skills while cooking, baking, cleaning, and working as the cashier for their coffee cart. They also learn the soft skills of employment, including reporting to a supervisor, completing a specific task, following directions, and following a schedule. Additionally, students monitor inventory and schedule trips to the grocery store as needed.

“I like to make the food that we sell at the coffee cart,” said senior William Lopes. “I also like to shop for food and items for students that need this stuff for their homes.”

There are currently 20 students in the Internship and Life Skills program. Every day, they are taking orders from teachers and staff for coffee, tea, hot chocolate, brownies, and snacks, and delivering them to the classrooms. The proceeds are reinvested into the program with half of it used to buy supplies at Costco and the other half to fund activities such as educational field trips, beach clean-ups, etc. Students also get to choose the activities they want to do based on the money they raise.

“My favorite part of this program is picking the field trips and then getting to actually go with our friends using the money we make from selling coffee,” said junior Lexus Jones.

The classroom at the high school has everything these students need to get the job done, including professional grade coffee devices and coffee donated from Omar Coffee in Newington. The program also oversees the school’s food pantry and home supplies for families in need and will bring extra items to the elementary schools. Additionally, there is a washer and dryer in the classroom, and students will wash and dry any donated clothes for the pantry.

“This class is my favorite class in the school, I love to make brownies all day!” exclaimed senior Anthony Monge.