New transitions program teaches living and working skills in Coupeville

Dave Caffarel made himself right at home, finding the couch so cozy, there seemed little point in relinquishing his spot too quickly.

Around him was a dining room table, a kitchen and an assortment of treats to snack on.

“I wish they had something like this when I was graduating high school,” Caffarel said.

Caffarel was among the guests Monday who were given a look inside the new home for a program at Coupeville High School that teaches life and job skills.

Formerly used for storage, the room next to the school district office is now the transitions classroom.

It’s a place where students are taking a hands-on approach to tackling life after high school.

“Every student has a daily chore,” said Susan Armstrong, who teaches the course three periods this fall. “They do a different chore every day.

“They go from unloading the dishwasher to wiping down counters, cooking, sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, cleaning the oven.

“You can talk about making a bed, but we need to be able to do it.”

The program is designed with the intention of teaching students living and working skills, Armstrong said.

The class has been both educational and fun, said senior Delayney McIntyre.

It takes place in a room that has been transformed to resemble a large studio apartment — thanks, in part, to efforts and donations from the community and work from the school district’s maintenance crew.

Key donations came from Joan Westbeld, in honor of her husband Clifford Westbeld, and the Coupeville Lions Club.

“This is a really amazing space and it’s actually teaching us a lot of good skills in life,” McIntyre said.

Among those skills is learning how to manage a household and balancing a budget.

“From my view, our program was in need of an environment where students could learn hands-on transition and life skills in a setting that looked more like an apartment and work than a regular classroom,” said Superintendent Jim Shank. “Mrs. Armstrong has been key to the development and implementation of the program. She saw the need, formulated the ideas, and made it happen.”

From a careers standpoint, there is focus on creating a resume and learning how to interview for a job, among other skills.

“In this type of program, we want a class that offers a transitionary-type point not only for life skills but also for going out and learning how to do soft job skills so the kids can intern,” Shank said.

Amber Benway, a junior, said the class has been helpful.

“It’s basically about living skills, about what it’s going to be like when you get your first apartment, ” she said. “It’s not going to be all nice and neat and put together for you. You have to learn how to do it on your own.”