For Julian Medina and other students, Sussex Consortium program is paying off 

By Ashley Dawson  |  Photograph by Scott Nathan
From the June 2015 issue

kid-junglejims Earning a Place in the Work World  - Delaware Beach LifeFor businesses dependent on student workers to bolster their employment ranks year-round — and especially in the tourist season — the Sussex Consortium helps fill a critical need.

Almost 300 county students are enrolled in the consortium, which provides special education classes and services at a main campus in Lewes or in classrooms at almost every school in the district. Sixty-seven of those students work at area businesses through the vocational program, holding paid and unpaid positions to gain life skills, job training and opportunities that have led to full-time employment after graduation.

When classes end this month, 17-year-old Julian Medina will return to Jungle Jim’s River Safari Water Park near Rehoboth for his second summer, working several days a week cleaning the miniature golf course and managing the bumper boats. “I help people get in and out of the boat safely,” he explains.

He’ll balance that paid job with a stint at Midway Fitness — also paid — and his hobbies, which range from weight training to playing guitar. He also enjoys just hanging with friends.

“I know a lot of people [at Jungle Jim’s]. It’s a fun job and I like the people who work there, especially the boss,” says Julian, a consortium student who attends Cape Henlopen High School. 

“I used to work at Buffalo Wild Wings. I’ve worked at Wawa, Peppers and I’m currently still working at Midway Fitness,” where he mans the counter, greeting gym members and handing out towels and beverages.

Jungle Jim’s first partnered with the consortium in 2005, hiring two or three students; this summer, it will employ a half-dozen young men, including Julian.

“He did an outstanding job. He worked hard, showed up on time. He’s a nice guy,” says Jack Lingo, manager at Jungle Jim’s, who speaks highly of all the students associated with the vocational program. Two graduates continue to be on the payroll; one is a cashier and the other a front gate greeter.

Lingo appreciates their positive attitudes and the resulting effect their interaction has on customers and other employees: “No matter what kind of day we’re having, these guys are always upbeat. It picks everybody up. Overall, all these guys are very dependable and that’s what we look for in any employee. We love having them.”

That feedback is music to the ears of Pam Graves, vocational coordinator and transition specialist for the consortium. She says that as the business community has become more aware of the consortium, the program has grown; nearly two dozen companies currently participate.

“We’re seeing more and more partners,” Graves says. “People are so willing. They want to give our kids a chance and they want them to have opportunities. They’re hard workers.”

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