Expect the unexpected from these kids.
Nancy Vaieland wants to be a librarian after she graduates from high school.She is learning to take care of books and enter patron information into the Provo Library's computer thanks to the Summer Outreach Activities Program.
Librarian skills, along with house cleaning, money usage, telling time and how to make clothing choices are other things Vaieland is learning through the program designed to prepare individuals with disabilities for the transition from high school to adult life.
Vaieland, who is a 20-year-old supersenior at Timpview High School, said her goal is to be living on her own when she turns 22.
"It teaches me how to be independent, how to do those things on my own," she said. "I have a job."
Her favorite part of the program is working at the library, although the 30 kids in the program work in a variety of places, including canyons in south Utah County, Smith's on Freedom Boulevard in Provo, Ross in Orem, Utah Lake cleanup and cleaning the state hospital.
Participants meet weekdays at 9 a.m. at an orange picnic table, which they call their office, on the grounds of the Provo School District's offices. They then divide into pre-arranged groups and drive to their jobs with a supervisor.
"Road guard!" yelled Brian Kooyman, a sophomore at Independence High School, as he was cleaning a canyon road in Payson Thursday. "Road guard" is a phrase Kooyman created. Kids who clean up up the roads will yell this phrase to alert others of an approaching vehicle.
Kooyman first heard about the program through his high school that encouraged him to work there for the summer.
"It's a fun work experience for the kids," he said. "Up here in the canyon I get to see nature everyday. I love to see nature because I would like to be a zoologist."
Students in the program earn a stipend they receive once a month. Earning money is just one aspect of the Summer Outreach Activities Program that mirrors a real job. Kids fill out a time card, receive a paycheck and learn how to do adult kinds of things involving a job, said Kris Hammond, director of the program.
Kooyman said he does not do the job for the money but rather for the fun.
Eighteen-year-old Fawn Heppler, recent graduate of Provo High School, said the program has helped her learn to get along better with other people.
On a given day, kids are assigned to a crew, typically a group of four kids who work together for either the day or half a day.
Students in Cathy Walker's crew spend the whole day in the canyon. Walker, who works as an aide with the Provo School District during the year, really likes her job and it shows as she interacts with each child.
While she drives the van filled with eight eager students to their outdoor work assignment for the day, the participants take turns reading the newspaper out loud, and then each student chooses their favorite story or photograph to put in a scrapbook. Walker said this is part of the social skills she works on with the children.
The children in Walker's crew set weekly and daily goals. At the end of the day, the kids discuss whether they achieved their goals.
The most rewarding aspect for Walker is knowing the students have their own self worth.
Becky Diamond, store manager at Ross in Orem, has about five students from the program work at her store three times a week for a few hours. Those who work at Ross take clothing out of plastic and then place the merchandise on hangers.
She said the store has benefited during the almost two years they have worked with the program.
"They become more disciplined as they work," Diamond said. "They still have problems from day to day, but they know what needs to be done, and they just start doing it."
The students are taught what work is all about, which is different than their schooling, she said.
"I really think their supervisors are excellent. They really teach them and are good with them," she said. Even when kids are disciplined, she said the supervisors do it with love and encourage them to keep working.
"As long as they will have us, we would love to have them," Diamond said.
Funds to keep the summer program running come from the Division of Services for People with Disabilities, Division of Rehabilitative Services and parent and business contracts.
Carma Distefano, a parent who has an 18-year-old daughter in the program, thinks the program is excellent.
"I know she's safe and her well-being is cared about," she said. "There's no comparison for a summer program. I fought for years to get into a summer program. This gives Becky something to do all summer."
The outreach program provides training for Becky for when she will be on her own, Distefano said. She would like her daughter to be close to the norm as she could possibly be. "This is it."
"These kids are the greatest kids you'll ever meet," Hammond said.