By Tammy Lane
Fayette County Public Schools
Corey Farmer has found his groove tending horses and making sub sandwiches. He’s also found a good fit in the AIM alternative program offered by Fayette County Public Schools, where his classroom has only about eight students.
“I don’t have a lot of distractions here and get to work at my own pace. They keep me encouraged but don’t force it,” explained Corey, a junior with special needs who formerly attended Paul Laurence Dunbar High.
Large schools can sometimes overwhelm students like Corey with too many stimuli, which can lead to such problems as tardiness and behavioral outbursts.
“We brought him down into a smaller, structured environment, and he’s doing so much better. The kids get the individual attention they need,” said Brian McIntyre, an employment trainer who counsels AIM students. “He’s making quite a bit of progress in the classroom and in the community.”
Sixteen-year-old Corey, who completes his coursework online through the PLATO Learning system, is back on track to graduate. He’d like to attend college and focus on equine studies; his fallback plan is masonry. And like most teens, he looks forward to getting his driver’s permit.
“He’s been dealt a tough hand in life, and he’s overcoming those barriers and moving on. From last year when I first met him, he’s come a long way,” McIntyre said.
Initially, Corey volunteered at the Kentucky Horse Park two days a week and helped out in the Riding for Hope barn, which caters to children with severe disabilities. This fall, he told McIntyre that he really needed a paying job to help out his own family. So they prepared a resume and cover letter, practiced mock interviews and visited various businesses to fill out applications.
“He didn’t really get any bites the first couple of weeks, so he and I walked into the Jimmy John’s on Waller Avenue. They couldn’t hire him there but referred us downtown,” McIntyre recalled.
Corey has been working about 12 hours a week at the Main Street sandwich shop since mid-September, earning $7.25 an hour. The location, which is only a few blocks from “It’s About Kids” Support Services,” is ideal. Either McIntyre drops him off, or Corey rides his bike from his Versailles Road-area home.
Whether taking phone orders, wrapping subs or ringing up sales, Corey is picking up new job skills and developing interpersonal skills.
“It’s perfect for him because he’s a kinesthetic learner and is good with his hands,” McIntyre said. “Corey is also an extrovert and is very outgoing. He’s a high-energy kid who wants to do well.”
Matt Sackett, who owns the Jimmy John’s restaurants in Lexington, said Corey has matured quickly since they met on Waller Avenue.
“It’s been fun to watch him grow. When he first started, he was a bit shy. It can be overwhelming,” Sackett said. “For someone of his age with no experience, he’s really stepped up and done a nice job.”
McIntyre said for many AIM students, earning a paycheck and realizing they have the potential to break whatever cycle holds them back can make all the difference.
“Positive encouragement,” he said, “that’s the key.”
Did you know?
AIM is an Alternative Integrated Model developed for high school students with disabilities who struggle with academics or vocational skills and need additional support in a more individualized setting. For more information, contact program administrator Rachel Baker.
Photos from FCPS.