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Lane School students gain job skills with help of Shell retailer

Once the final school bell rigs, teenagers scatter by the numbers to their afternoon routines-band practice, cheerleading, or maybe “Saved By the Bell” re-runs. But for a group of area students, 3 p.m. means there are shelves to stock and gas pumps to clean-and it means a step towards independence.

What began as a hotdog sale at a local service station grand opening, has developed into a successful relationship between a group of high school students with mental and/ or physical challenges, the community, and a Shell retailer with 102 locations across the Houston area.

Each afternoon, students from Ellen B. Lane School in Houston take a quick bus ride to a co-branded Shell – Burger King station at 1950 N. Sam Houston Parkway E. At the station, the students stock shelves, clean gas pumps and coolers, wash windows, refill paper towel dispensers and clean the premises both inside and out. Under the watchful eyes of “job coaches” from their school, these students are learning work and social skills that can make them employable and functional in the community. Additionally, these are qualifying for a post-secondary education program that offers long-term employment, work-oriented services and residential living.

According to Bob Toner, job coach with Lane, this type of experience is difficult to simulate within the schools. The program relies on business partners like Shell and Burger King to provide opportunities where students can learn behaviors through interactions with co-workers that occur naturally in a work setting. School administrators carefully screen the students, who exhibit a wide range of mental and physical challenges, to match each individual with the right job.

Ahmed “Danny” Dhanani, operations manager of Gulshan Enterprises, Inc. and owner of the Sam Houston Parkway location recommends the program to other retailers and credits its success to helping his station fully integrate into the community. As a new service station that opened less than a year ago, Ahmad routinely receives positive feedback from both the students and area residents.

I’m confident your readers will enjoy learning more about how this unique program is opening the doors of opportunity for Houston-area students. I will contact you soon to discuss this idea further. In the meantime, feel free to contact me at 713.513.9501 or whitea@fleishman.com for additional information.