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Archived Story

Bob Jones program is truly special

Published 8:53am Monday, April 4, 2011

When I first started writing for The Record six months ago, I jumped headfirst into my main beat, Madison City Schools.

I’ve continuously expressed my admiration for the system’s efforts and involvement with its students.

But one particular program is making a huge impact on a certain group of students.

The special needs program at Bob Jones High School is on of the greatest I’ve seen.

The work placement program allows students the opportunity to gain relevant work experience that would give them the leg-up when entering the work force.

HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, the Westin Hotel, PESA manufacturing and the Huntsville Botanical Gardens allow special needs students to intern, while sometimes hiring after graduation.

Charlene Sandford, who teaches a special needs class, is a strong advocate for her students. Her unreserved personality and tenacity is a force to be reckoned with. Bob Lipinski’s job is to find companies to employ students after graduation. It’s great that the school system looks out for these students beyond enrollment.

A couple weeks ago, I went on assignment to Bob Jones to write a story about the special needs class, receiving tips on proper prom etiquette. An etiquette instructor trained the class on asking dates to dance, complimenting dates and properly going through the food line.

The entire experience was deeply moving. To see teachers take such an interest really made me stop and think, “Hey, these students have as much right to attend prom as anyone else.”

Until I covered the story, I didn’t even realize a lot of special needs students attended prom.

Bob Jones’ prom was March 26, and I attended so I could take pictures for the paper. As I made my rounds across the room, I found Sandford with her class. There, I saw Scott Dow, a friend I had made from the etiquette story, and Katy Weaver, who was the first special-needs student in Bob Jones history to be on homecoming court.

The students were decked out in gowns and tuxedos, just like everyone else. Sandford kept me busy, making sure I took photos of everyone in the class. And it didn’t hit me at the time, but to see ALL Bob Jones upperclassman at prom made me proud to be a Madison resident.

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