Program for grads with special needs gets new greenhouse

Rich “Bubba” Misner owes some of his proudest accomplishments to a Pocatello-Chubbuck School District 25 program that teaches young adults with special needs skills and helps them find jobs.

The Voice program — short for Vocational Opportunities for Independent Community Based Education — allows the district’s graduates with special needs who are between 18 and 21 years old to continue learning with their peers. It helps participants find employment and teaches them basic skills such as budgeting, cooking, cleaning and even riding a city bus.

Thanks to Voice, Misner, a 19-year-old New Horizons High School graduate, has a job that pays him $10 per hour, stocking shelves and cleaning at Nel’s Bi-Low Market, 333 N. 15th Ave. He’s also taken a keen interest in the Voice program’s new greenhouse, which is raising its first crop of garden plants.

Misner explains: “We have tomatoes, peppers, onions and cilantro.”
Most exciting to Misner, the greenhouse is where he gets to keep his own pair of ducks. Misner had asked the Voice program director, Julie Morris, to get him ducks for three years before she finally acquiesced.
Morris explained the primary benefit of the greenhouse is that it teaches participants responsibility and the basics of botany, but the program also aims to generate income through sales of plants that participants are raising as salsa gardens. They may also offer finished salsa as a product.

“They’re a pleasure to have up front,” said Mika Hernandez, a student worker with Disability Services who works closely with the Voice members. Hernandez said the two workers keep the office stocked with supplies, shred paper and make sure there are plenty of pens available. They also helped fill activity bags for a program that teaches fiscal responsibility to high school students. Hernandez said Shouse has gained in confidence and now “jumps right in and knows what to do.”

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