DRS summer camp for jobseekers with disabilities at Wichita Wildlife Refuge
INDIAHOMA, Okla. – Seven young jobseekers who apparently enjoy hard work and tent camping turned out for paid employment at summer camp last week at Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge in Indianola.
The Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services offered the innovative on-the-job training June 9 through 14 for Vocational Rehabilitation and Visual Services clients in the DRS Transition School to Work program.
“Students selected for our Working on the Wichita Mountains or WOW camp are paid to work at the wildlife refuge where they camp out, cook some of their meals and make new friends,” Transition Coordinator Renee Sansom said. “Meanwhile, they are developing work skills and job experience that will look great on their resumes.”
Adult staff, partners and volunteers pitched in to get the work done in time for hiking, campfires, swimming and other fun activities.
Quinton Smith, Wildlife Refuge park ranger, and Darren Proctor, fire crew member, assigned jobs to the students every day from rebuilding washed-out hiking trails to cleaning up logs and brush as part of the refuge’s wildfire prevention plan.
Smith congratulated the group after they spent a full morning at work.
“High five,” Smith said, slapping hands with students and staff. “If a few people had slacked off and not participated today, we would not be done. This is a fine example of a team! Good job, ya’ll! You’re awesome!”
Transition students mixed work and fun at the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services WOW Camp (from left, first row) are: Darren Proctor, Orlando Williams, Dana Clark, Tarynn Brenscom-Anderson, Quinton Smith, Margaret Miller, Ronnie Gresham and Kevin Hansen;(2nd row) Brandi Hurley, Matthew Jenson and Levi Smith; and (3rd row) Stephanie Monroe, Nathan Riggins, Jennifer Hawkins, Brittany Nelson and Timon Lonewolf.
Matthew Jenson from Lawton has attended WOW camp for three years.
“This year is more labor intensive, but also more fun,” Jenson said. “We’ve been digging holes and putting logs in as a water dam to keep the trails from eroding.”
During the school year, I’m on my phone quite a bit,” he said. “Being out here helps you get away from it. I can only get reception (in the refuge) in some select spots.”
Dana Clark, youth coordinator at Oklahoma Works, was the WOW camp leader.
“This is my first time out here – it’s beautiful,” Clark said. “This is my first time camping too.”
Adult staff at camp throughout the week included:
Brandi Hurley, DRS VR Transition program field representative
Juliette Hulen, DRS VR assistive technology specialist
Orlando Williams, OU Pre-Employment Transition Services program
Kevin Hansen, OU Pre-Employment Transition Services program
Tarynn Brenscom-Anderson, nurse.
DRS staff who volunteered on various days were:
Renee Sansom, DRS Transition coordinator
Jackie Carter-Hill, DRS VR programs manager
Jennifer Hawkins, DRS VS vocational rehabilitation specialist
Stephanie Monroe, DRS VS vocational rehabilitation specialist
Tabitha Pogi, DRS VR vocational rehabilitation specialist
GALT, a non-profit staffing agency, donated food for the week and wrote paychecks to the students, which will be reimbursed by DRS.
The University of Oklahoma National Center for Disability Education and Training sent pre-employment transition specialists to be on site for employment activities and donated items for the campers.
Darrin Cisco from the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma Vocational Rehabilitation cooked dinner for everyone at WOW camp on Tuesday and provided backpacks and water bottles.