Partnership Highlights

  • Lou Fusz

    Posted by Special School District on 1/18/2024

    Julie Elking and Randy Harman stand against a light blue backdrop and smile.At the 2023 Salutes banquet, Randy Harman and Julie Elking, talent acquisition professionals at Lou Fusz, were presented with a Special Ambassador Award for their partnership with North and South Tech High Schools. The seeds of this partnership were planted in 2019 when Harman attended a seminar regarding a disaster on the horizon - the impending retirement of the Baby Boomer generation. He was prompted to investigate the implications such retirements may have on his workplace and found that 27% of their technicians were set to retire in three years. That’s when Harman started to talk with students at career and technical education schools, beginning with post-secondary schools like State Tech and Ranken, and then North and South High Schools.

    Harman is on a mission to educate young people about the earning potential of automotive technicians.“In five years, [they] can be making six figures,” said Harman. He wants students to know about the variety of opportunities in the industry. Harman lamented that students are still discouraged from going into the trades.

    Part of helping students understand those opportunities is ensuring that automotive tech students have what they need to learn, including vehicles to work on during the school day. Lou Fusz has donated vehicles to North and South Tech through this partnership. Harman remembers bringing the first vehicle, a Ford cargo van with engine issues, to South Tech. The students were so excited they were climbing all over it,” Harman reminisced, “To see the kids get so excited about what they do, that’s what it’s all about. Vehicles are textbooks for these students, so they were excited about learning.” 

    Aaron Wadell, 2017 graduate of South Tech High School and current Lou Fusz employee, also visits current South Tech classrooms to speak with students and tell them that there are a lot of places to work in the trades. Some companies, like Lou Fusz, go above and beyond to ensure their talent is nurtured as far as they can go.

    Wadell has worked in several different service centers, from small mom-and-pop shops to the largest used car dealer in the United States. During the 2020 pandemic, Lou Fusz was hiring while other places were downsizing. He started at Lou Fusz as a collision repair technician/backup painter and was quickly promoted to a new custom paint department that he manages.He feels that Lou Fusz provides the best of two worlds - “the benefits of a large company while being run like a family organization.” 

    To extend learning beyond the school buildings, North and South Tech students have taken tours of Lou Fusz’s Vehicle Improvement Products (VIP) division, where cars are retrofitted for organizations like police departments or wrapped for branding and advertising purposes. Students get to see the opportunities in automotive technology firsthand and get introduced to the Fusz Automotive Student Technicians (FAST) Garage program, which is located in the VIP division.

    Ken Neuman, South Tech Auto Body and Collision Repair instructor, is very positive about the partnership with Lou Fusz, stating, “Great students at great businesses, like Lou Fusz, make for a prosperous future for all.”

    Harman agrees, saying, "The relationship with South and North Tech has been amazing.”

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  • Mercy

    Posted by Special School District on 11/1/2023

    A male student smiles while hauling laundry as part of his internship at Mercy.As a teaching hospital, Mercy has long been familiar with what it takes to train new residents and student nurses. They have taken that knowledge and extended that to SSD students - welcoming them to the workforce, providing proper training, and including them as equals.

    Mercy Hospital welcomes our Vocational Skills Program (VSP) into its building. These students, often called interns, have completed their high school experience and been identified as benefiting from additional training in a supported environment before they transition to the workforce. There is a classroom in the hospital where interns learn employability skills, such as professionalism and how to communicate effectively. Out of the classroom, interns are able to see a variety of departments at Mercy before deciding which department they will work in and learn the skills associated with those jobs.

    While working with Mirah Moore, the Bakery supervisor, interns in the Nutrition-Culinary services department get to let their interests guide them. One former student was interested in completing a task that he could accomplish in one day, so Moore trained him on cookies, which he could make from start to finish - including packaging, dating, and labeling - all in one day. This former intern is now employed at Mercy South. They report regularly that the things he learned at Mercy Hospital set him up for success. Moore notes that it is helpful to hear this type of feedback, saying, “You’re always hoping that when you’re training students, you’re setting them up with lifelong skills.” Hearing from a current employer of a graduate let her know that was happening.

    A female student shares a smile while wiping a counter in a communal space at Mercy.While at Mercy, interns are able to look across the board at opportunities in health care. Once an interis hired, they can start networking and learning about other jobs. There are educational opportunities and benefits that interns can take advantage of to build a career based on their interests and skills. Moore is a cheerleader for VSP interns and believes “they are capable of anything they put their mind to.”

    To learn more about the VSP program at Mercy, follow this link to a video Mercy created.


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  • Schnucks

    Posted by Special School District on 5/11/2023

    Santos reviews the shelves to find the correct spot for a bottle of lotion.There is a lot that happens in a grocery store. Keeping items on the shelf is only part of the equation. Items must be turned to face forward, stocked by date, removed if expired, and placed in the correct spot. These are just a few of the tasks required to make sure grocery items get from the store to your home, and at Schnucks in Des Peres, SSD students are completing them.


    Lee Goldstein, an SSD teacher at Kirkwood High School, accompanies her four students to Schnucks for the first three periods of school four days a week as part of SSD’s Community Based Vocational Instruction program (CBVI). On Thursdays, students remain at school and work on transition skills: employability, community living, daily living, and personal life.


    Schnucks store manager Dennis Frede, was excited to speak about the CBVI program at their store. Frede is a big proponent of welcoming students; he believes his team members learn as much as the students do. As for the quality of work provided, Frede beamed, “They do a great job, and they’re always smiling. I just love it; it makes me feel good.”


    In addition to retail-specific skills such as stocking, students are learning transferable skills in leveraging technology and customer service. Students use the Schnucks App to help them locate where to put items customers might displace throughout the store. Customers and team members also interact with students, and students have the opportunity to practice answering questions or responding to a polite greeting.


    Morgan works in the back room of a Schnucks grocery store.And, the students are happy about gaining real-world work experience. One student from this year’s group will begin working at Schnucks upon graduation, and another was all smiles, stating, “It’s great! I get to walk around the store and learn new things.” 


    As they wrap up their year with Schnucks, this group has gained more than transferable skills through the CBVI program. Goldstein sees students are more confident and independent, better understand the importance of money, and have gained a sense of community which was evident throughout the store. Students regularly worked and interacted with Schnucks employees, and the employees spoke highly of the students. 


    Goldstein speaks highly of Schnucks as well. “Schnucks is a great partner for our students. A worker today asked me about a student I had here last year: ‘How is he doing?’ You know, they develop a fondness and relationship and care about how students are doing and whether they’re successful. They are a great, great partnership. Everybody here is spectacular.”


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