A group of Ottawa High School student worked for months to hone their skills in preparation for the Job Olympics held at Johnson County Community College. That hard work paid off as the team brought back a second place trophy from the competition.

The Job Olympics is a competition that promotes transition and employability skills for high school students in special education. More than 500 students from over 40 area schools came together to compete on March 28. The events offered actual job employment situations and were judged by community professionals in business and education.

“This is all a new beginning for us,” said Karen Rogers, OHS life skills teacher. “The kids love it but it also gives us a purpose for practicing all of those skills. If it was just constant work, why are we doing this? They would never see the use for it until they get to the apartment or get to the job. This is like the icing on the cake because we can compete against other kids.”

The events help the students learn about real life skills. Jude Taylor competed in three events, Host/Hostess, Job Interview and Change Amounts which he placed fifth in. He said the events help them learn about real life.

The students that participated are very proud of their second-place team trophy and their individual medals and ribbons they earned. Randy Hastings was one of the students that competed. He said his favorite event was Change Amounts. He took second place in the event.

Students worked hard to master the skills for the competition.

“It made me feel like I can do things,” Hastings said.

Taylor agreed.

“It makes we feel like I am ready for the real world,” he said. “At first I didn’t know how to count change or know the name of the change. But today I finally know how to count change and I am really good at it now.”

As a group, the students said they were proud to learn new things and to accomplish the skills they were taught.

For events like Job Interview, students dressed just as they would for a real interview learning that a neat appearance is important. Rogers said the social component was a big part. Students were expected to introduce themselves to judges and shake their hands. The also got to socialize with other students from around the area.

Kaden Studley said one of the hardest part of the competition was being on a timer.

This was the 25th year Johnson County Community College hosted the event. The students said it was exciting to spend time at the school.

“It was big and they are still adding on to it,” Taylor said.

Rogers had praise for the her students in the way they handled the pressure of the event.

“These guys worked so very hard, they listened and followed directions,” she said. “Our students don’t just work on academics, we work on social skills. Besides the academics we still work on these other things so they have twice as much to learn.”

Rogers said the work could not get done without the help of the para educators’ dedication.

“I thank God for our paras,” she said. “Without the paras, it’s impossible to meet the individual needs of these students. It takes one on one. To start from where we were to getting to where they are today and to be as successful as we are, it takes a team.”

Jamie Swindler teaches the ADULTS class which stands for Achieving Dreams Through Learning Transition Skills. She said going to this event helps them know that they are doing the same kind of work as other classes.

“One of the things I thought was amazing, it makes you feel like you’re on the right page with your students and kids,” Swindler said. “Because all the students are learning the same skills so all those paras and all those 14 different districts have been doing the same thing that we’ve all been doing so we’re not alone.”

She said all the kids are working toward the same goal, to move forward and gain independence and eventually get a job. To that statement the students answered together, “to make money.”

Rogers emphasized to the students how important independence was.

“We all have something to contribute, don’t we,” she said. “There’s none of you that doesn’t have something to contribute to the community and to the family.”

Para educators in the Life Skills class are Kelsey McGill, Randi White, Nicholas Jones, Dalton Weidl and Darius Johnson. ADULTS Para educators are Deb Hunsaker, Nicki Kneece, Lisa Myers and Shelby Kiefer.



Harley Hellmer, second

Folding Napkins

Hellmer, 10th


Randy Hastings, first; Jude Taylor, fifth; Gabriel Buehler, ninth

Job application

Hastings, second; Kaden Studley, fifth


Clayson Hughes, third; Caleb Yancey, sixth; Emily Bittner, sixth

Sorting Laundry

Hughes, first; Yancey, fifth; Bittner, eighth

Sorting Mail

William Maher, third

Job Interview

Taylor, second; Maher, third

Phone Messages

Hastings, fifth; Studley, eighth; Maher, 10th

Table Settings

Hughes, first; Yancey, ninth


Bittner, fifth

Bagging Groceries

Studley, seventh; Maher, eighth


Taylor, first; Hellmer, fourth; Garrett Olson, fifth

Change Amounts

Hastings, second; Taylor, third

Sorting Silverware

Yancey, third; Hughes, fourth; Bittner, ninth