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 Students Boost Confidence While Gaining Job Skills

​One of the students worked as a deckhand on a fishing boat; another as a farrier’s apprentice, putting shoes on horses; still another got an internship as a dog walker.

They all got the jobs with the help of the internship program at North County Academy, a school that serves students with significant mental health needs in grades 5 through 12.

For most of the students in the program, it’s their first work experience, said Chuck Scarborough, who oversees the program.

“The first questions I ask students is, ‘If you could pick any job in the world, what would it be?’ ” he said.

Scarborough uses his business connections and background to help find the students an internship that suits their interest and skills.

They typically work two or three hours a day in morning or afternoon shifts for a total of 30 to 60 hours of paid work each school year. Scarborough also arranges for them to get school credit for their internship. They get one unit for every 10 hours they work.

The experience can boost the students’ self-confidence, said Julie Brito, the general manager at a Petco sore in Oceanside that participates in the program.

“The program is important because it gives the kids a taste of what commitment, responsibility, and leadership are going to look like when they get out of school,” she said.

Evan, who works at the Oceanside Petco, said he has enjoyed the experience.

“It’s really pleasant for me to work there,” he said. “It’s not bringing anything but positives.”

His work at the store has even boosted his confidence and helped him perform better at school, Evan said.  

“It teaches me diligence and persistence,” he said.

Sometimes students come to Scarborough seeking work, sometimes they’re recommended by their teachers for the program, and other times Scarborough finds out they have gotten a job on their own and works to make sure they get school credit for it.

Scarborough has three rules for his student interns: show up on time, be dressed appropriately, and be respectful.

Scarborough started the internship program at the school in 2009, back when it was at a different location and had a different name.

The 11-classroom campus is run by the San Diego County Office of Education for the 14 school districts in the North Coastal Consortium for Special Education along with Poway Unified School District.

About 10 to 15 of the 70 students at the school usually participate in the internship program.