Transition program graduate Melissa Rice single-handedly changed policy at Harlem High School this year.
She's the reason her instructors had to set a limit on extra credit work - that's after the A student wrote 56 current event reports in one weekend to earn extra points.
At a recent banquet at Harlem High to acknowledge students involved in the transition program, Melissa was one of three students to receive special honors, along with the program's four graduating seniors.
Melissa won the Academic Award for maintaining a 100 average throughout the school year.
"Students will tell you to get a 100 on a job training evaluation, they are in cloud nine," said Jeromy Williams, who is serving his first year as the school's transition instructor.
Through the transition program, special needs students learn not only reading, writing and arithmetic but also job skills such as interviewing, punctuality and customer service.
Columbia County has 80 businesses and 45 students - including Harlem High's nine - participating in the transition program, which began about a decade ago, said program coordinator Gail Clubb, a lead teacher for Columbia County Special Services.
Pupils in the program begin their freshman and sophomore years in the classroom learning the basics. They gain on-the-job experience in their junior and senior years, rotating to eight businesses and working four weeks at each site.
At the transition banquet, guests and students enjoyed a spaghetti dinner catered by Harlem High's award-winning culinary team. There were also slide shows of the transition students describing their work experiences throughout the year.
"I don't think I've ever been prouder of a group of people in all my life," said Williams. "What they are becoming is taxpayers, rather than tax burdens."
Four of his students have received job offers.
Xavier Washington received the Employee of the Year award. Students can earn 40 points a day when they are on the job, and though he was employee of the month only once, he amassed 4,902 points throughout the year, beating out his classmates for the honor.
"It's the story of the tortoise and the hare," Williams said. "His was a marathon race rather than a sprint."
Kyler Bennett won the Bulldog Award for being the "student who epitomizes job training," Williams said.
"You do not have to be the fastest, most talented or best producing student, just the most committed," he added.
Besides Melissa Rice, other graduating seniors recognized at the event were Cindy Aldridge, Sherelle Hill and Alphonso Tanksley.
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