Lowes Foods in King recently donated $2,000 towards the exceptional children’s (EC) program at West Stokes High School.
“Lowes has been an amazing supporter to our kids,” said West Stokes EC teacher Matt Shelton. “They’ve done a lot for us over the years, but when I reached out and explained some of the things we were currently doing, a couple days later they called back and said they wanted to be part of it.”
The funding from Lowes allowed the program to purchase a monitor for an interactive small group and furniture to turn the classroom into an apartment style living area for students to practice life skills.
As a second year teacher at West, Shelton is committed to preparing his students for life beyond high school. Currently, there are 24 teens in the EC program ranging in ages from 14 to 22.
“We do academic skills like math, science, reading and social studies, but then we work on life skills. We have a full functioning kitchen, a washer and dryer to do laundry and we practice financial management. We’re trying to give them every opportunity to be successful.”
It’s important to Shelton and other teachers involved in the program, for the community to know their students, and know they’re capable of giving back.
“It’s likely my students are going to live in this area for a long time and we want our town to know they’re out and able to work. They need advocates,” he said. “A lot of the businesses have become very supportive of what we’re doing, so it’s allowed our kids the opportunity to do different things.”
Shelton and the other teachers involved in the EC program have intentionally honed in on their student’s strengths. Once a week, the teens travel to local job sites.
“We have kids bagging groceries at Lowes, folding pizza boxes at Little Italy, stocking shelves at CVS, and helping load and unload furniture at ReStore on Main Street. Kids are learning how to keep a salon clean and functioning at JPosh and at the YMCA, one student is helping at the front desk welcoming people,” Shelton said.
Other students are assisting at Smith-Love Realty, Cornerstone Baptist and King Outreach Ministries.
Many of the fall flowers planted throughout the King community, on Main Street, at the YMCA, City Hall and the police station, have been planted by West Stokes EC students, Shelton said.
“Jim Mitchell at Mitchell’s Nursery has been working with the kids and has been a great supporter of what we’re doing.”
Shelton wants to see students leave the classroom, ready to enter the community in a productive way.
“I want them to be as independent as they can and not rely on others, whether it’s family members or other workers to do the things they want to do. We want them to be able to take care of themselves.”
Shelton said in the past, West Stokes has been the primary school for the EC program, but South Stokes recently began a life skills class and is hoping to garner the same local support.
“They’re on the right track. We’ve been in conversation and they’re getting that program up and running. I think they’ll be doing a lot of the same things in the Walnut Cove area soon,” he said. “It isn’t always an easy transition out of high school and into the real world for our students, but this is a step in the right direction. We want to help them be successful and we’re really thankful for businesses like Lowes and others in the community who have that same desire.”
Amanda Dodson may be reached at 336-813-2426.