Niles’ Southside School wins $1,000 grant for job training

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NILES, Mich. (WNDU) - A good education and a good job often go hand in hand. In Niles, there’s a school that focuses on job training and student support for children with special needs.

Thanks to Martin's Super Markets, Southside School will be able to add to their training resources with a $1,000 One School at a Time grant.

"It's a great program here. It's very unique," said Michelle Payne, an instructor at Southside. "Very unique students. The staff is unique. It's great here!"

Southside helps students with a wide range of abilities find their strengths in the job market. The kids will tell you, it offers them much more.

Student Brittney Watson was having trouble fitting in at a traditional public school.

"I like being here because you get accepted and I can be my true self," Brittney said.

"It helps you get a job for the real world,” Southside student Triston White said.

Brittney and Triston spend a few hours a week working as interns for local companies. They know they’re a big help.

"She says 'You know what, Triston? I'm happy you're here, and I’m glad you're on this job site with me, because nothing would be possible,'" Triston said.

Extra money is needed to help train these kids. The $1,000 Martin’s grant will help pay for tools and activities used in the program SOAR, which stands for Student Opportunity for Adult Responsibility.

The SOAR program helps kids ages 15-25 do job training right here in the community.

"We can't do enough for our students here," SOAR job coach Shannon Quinn said. "Our students have lots of needs, and we try to bring those things to them by bringing them out in to the community to give them those kinds of resources."

Quinn says they have developed internships with six different local companies, with others on a waiting list.

"We work at a horse barn. We work at a restaurant. We work at a bowling alley. We work at Feed the Children, as the students will tell you," Quinn explained.

It’s a win-win for local businesses and the students. The companies get their work done and these kids improve their skills and self-esteem.

After all, mistakes are learning opportunities, and support can boost success.

"All I've got to say for the kids that are struggling and facing stressful days: Don't put yourself down, get back up and do it again," Triston advised.

"Helping people, it makes you feel good inside," Brittney added. "Makes the other person feel like they're accepted and know that they're cared for … be a better person."

It's helping to make a better community.

If you are a business owner or manager and would like to connect with the internship program at Southside, you may contact them at 269-683-0421.

To enter your school for a $1,000 One School at a Time grant from Martin’s Super Markets, click here.