CLINTON, Ark. – A pilot program allows students with disabilities to not only learn life skills, but earn some extra money all during the school day. 

Wednesday, the Clinton School District celebrated one full school year having the Opportunities for Work-Based Learning program. Or owl for short.

Darla McJunkins is at an end of the year celebration, but this means so much more to her. It’s been a year of her daughter finding success. 

“My daughter has down syndrome and she’s very highly functional and very social,” McJunkins explains.

She has a smile that lights up the room and is part of the owl program. It’s for students with special needs or disabilities.

“We have noticed attendance and behavior does improve under this program,” said Owl transitions job coach Gretchen Hunt. 

The transitional class teaches them job skills like serving lunch to teachers. They earn certifications from the food service industry or OSHA. They get job training and do volunteer work too. 

They say the best part is that the students earn money for working during the school day. They get $8.50 an hour. 

“Our community is an improvised community. Not all, but highly,” said Hunt. 

Jacob Hardy, a senior, says he can help his family with making ends meets. He says through the program he’s found after school employment.  

“It gave me my food certification and that’s helped me get a job at the local Casey’s that’s here,” said Hardy. 

He says students, like Darla’s daughter, are finding encouragement through skills they will use years after graduation.