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Community works to build students future

ELLENBURG DEPOT - Students at Northern Adirondack Central School are taking root and reaching for their potential with the help of community businesses.

School officials and community members were recognized for participating in the Career and Life Links program at a ceremony June 9 at the Ellenburg Depot Fire Station. The program involved students from NAC and 22 participating area businesses.

Faye Fitzgerald, program consultant at NAC, gave out plants to area business leaders and students as a symbol of the relationships the program has established.

"Just as a plant reaches out to the sun to fulfill a need for light, so too you have reached out to our students to provide much needed work training opportunities," said Fitzgerald.

According to Fitzgerald, the program was designed for students with disabilities to work in a unique learning environment and apply classroom knowledge while developing work skills.

"The dropout rate is much higher in special education students," said NAC special education teacher Marta Parrotte.

NAC student Mathew Boyea worked for Francis and Maureen McNeil through the program at McNeil's Auto Repair.

"If he couldn't go to our place he said he wasn't going to school," said Maureen. "He did an outstanding job, above and beyond our expectations."

"He wants to learn and he catches on quick," added Francis.

Fitzgerald explained the program's uniqueness is due to the rural setting in which it thrives.

"It's very rural, and at a time when the economy is what it is, it affects all businesses and I was concerned whether they'd open their doors to this kind of program. Where students would come in and work on site," she said. "The businesses have been real receptive, they just opened their doors to us and offered our students invaluable experiences."

Businesses and organizations that participated in the Career and Life Links program were Blue Haven Campground, Critter Sitters, Dominic's Hardware, Ellenburg Post Office, Ellenburg Depot Fire Station, Ellenburg Depot Post Office, Ellenburg Inn, Ellenburg Town Hall, Ellenburg Senior Citizen Nutrition Site, Ellenburg Town Justice Office, Ellenburg Trustworthy Hardware, Horses in Motion, JCEO Headstart, McNeil's Auto Repair, Northern Adirondack Comfort Motel, NAC Grounds/Maintenance Department, NAPA Auto Parts, Pizza Barn, Prevo's Convenience Store, Rainbow Wedding and Banquet Hall, The Greenery, and Varin's Market.

"Programs such as Career and Life Links are only successful if the community in which they are developed is receptive," said Fitzgerald. "We are proud to say that NAC district has been overwhelmingly receptive."

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