Employers who give handicapped students an opportunity to sample the world of work were honored by Granite District students who benefit from the program recently.

During a luncheon in the Hilda B. Jones Center, the employers were applauded for their willingness to work with students who sometimes need extra encouragement and direction. They received certificates noting their involvement.The lunch was prepared and served by students of the center, who may choose food preparation and service as an area in which they want to work. Other options include meatcutting, laundry and floral arrangement. All of these skills are taught on-site at the Jones Center.

Some students are prepared at the center then move into the community with a trainer, eventually becoming independent employees in many cases, said Jeff Rydalch, instructor at the center. Students are placed according to their abilities, training and interests.

Trainers put high emphasis on social skills, since problems in this area are the most frequent cause for students to lose jobs, he said.

The Jones Center has several programs aimed at different groups of handicapped individuals, Rydalch later told members of the Granite Board of Education. The effort is divided among the center and the district's high schools, which also have "trackers" working with individual students.

The district's GIFTS (Gaining Independence for Transition Success) program aims at handicapped students 19 to 22 who have dropped out of school, then want to return to get job skills. This year 34 students have been involved and the number is expected to double next year.

In all, 170 students ages eight to 12 are enrolled in the center's vocational-readiness program; 45 to 65 are served in independent sites, returning to their schools after reaching specific vocational goals; an average of 78 students per high school receive services in their own schools - a total of 780; and 18 to 24 students are involved in the vocational academic program at the center.