The Ford Mustang Cobra in the Billy Howell showroom impressed a group of Lakeside Middle School students during a recent visit to the dealership.
While they admired the upgraded interior of the vehicle, they were equally thrilled to spend time in behind the dealership, cleaning the exterior of a less flashy car.
For the seven special needs students in Eren Dabbs’ class, the Community Based Instruction trip wasn’t so much about car shopping as it was looking at potential careers.
“In middle school, we get ready for some career exploration,” Dabbs said. “And in high school, they’ll go more vocational for these types of trips.
“We’ll practice skills. They could be problem solving, following directions, demonstrating communication. They might have to go up and introduce themselves, just appropriate, functional skills in the community and real world.”
The students began in the showroom, visiting with the sales staff, the receptionist and moving into the shop where students got to learn about technicians’ duties.
Brenda Howell, business development manager, took the kids through the dealership, introducing them to members of her team.
“We try to stay very involved in the community ... we work with a lot of classes,” she said.
The dealership works closely with DECA programs in the county, as well as the auto tech department at Forsyth Central High School. It’s a priority for Howell.
“This is our future,” she said. “These children are going to be working in our community one day. Hopefully they stay here, and they need to learn about different jobs and positions.”
As the lone girl in the class, Mayra Milian wasn’t too concerned about the horsepower in the muscle cars, but she was excited about just about everything else, including getting to spray a vehicle clean.
Michael Atterberry enjoyed watching the process behind fixing a car. They all spent their day actively filling in questions, including car costs, what types of vehicles can be found at the dealership and what different jobs are available.
“We talk about what does a car cost and try to generalize the skills, because that’s a hard concept for them,” Dabbs said. “Sometimes they talk about what are some jobs that when you graduate you can potentially start there. This is just to get them thinking about after school and what’s out there in the community.”
Through the Community Based Instruction program, Dabbs is able to let her students explore jobs and learn new life skills at two locations per month.
Earlier in October, the group went to Hobby Lobby. After nine years of teaching in Forsyth County’s schools, Dabbs said she’s seeing a return on her investment.
“I went to Publix the other day and saw one of my students from my first year,” she said. “It was neat to see her working there.
“I think this is a great program.”