NEW FRANKLIN  Students from SUPER Learning Center have been learning life and work lessons at the Akron Rotary Camp at the Portage Lakes. 

Throughout the school year, the students spend Monday through Thursday at the camp doing whatever needs to be done, from laundry to feeding the reptiles.

The students begin their day with devotions and a lesson to be learned. One example was a story about doing jobs with questions such as:

- "When you are given a job to do by your parents do you tell them you will do it at another time?"

- "Do you take a nap first then go do the work?"

- "Or do you do the work first then take a nap?"

The students were asked if they were to ask someone to do something, would they want them to do it right away or wait until after they had a nap? They responded with they would want them to do it right away.

The idea is to teach the students to handle everyday tasks at home or in the workplace - life skills and work skills. Teacher and Intervention Specialist Bre Sigler said she is their "boss" as she put it. That is because she helps them put into practice the skills they learn. Students wear T-shirts that spell START – Students Take Active Roles Transitioning.

Students split into groups to do what is needed at the camp. Some went to the laundry area to do the laundry from the weekend campers and others went to work in the reptile area, feeding the snake, turtles, bearded dragon and other reptiles. Teacher Bill Sullivan said the students have a check-list to make sure they complete all the steps needed to do the work.

SUPER student John Butcher said that doing work at the camp teaches them to do odd jobs and it will be jobs they know how to do later on.

The students get paid each week with classroom bucks and use those bucks toward things to do such as riding on the pontoon boat. They have also done things like fire safety and a campfire and they paid 20 classroom bucks to participate. Sigler said the idea is for them to learn to earn money, spend money and budgeting. They write a check every week for rental of their desk and locker using their classroom bucks. The last few months they have been figuring out their deductions from their gross pay to come up with their net pay.

"We have done a lot of really cool things," said Sigler.

She spoke about how the students worked on directions. Each day, on the way to the camp, a different student takes a turn to give Sigler the directions from the school in Lakemore to the camp at 4460 Rex Lake Drive in New Franklin.

"Doing that helps with environmental awareness," she said.

Parents have also told Sigler that the kids will walk by dirty socks, plates or other items in a room and not even think about picking them up. 

"So, we can simulate that here and also take a look at what is around them," Sigler said.

The SUPER students will act as student ambassadors when the entire learning center visits the camp for field day.

SUPER Learning Center is Ohio’s leading cognitive development center and autism school.

"Our students have enjoyed every facet of their experience at the Akron Rotary Camp this year and have learned so much about different potential vocations," said Richard Cole, the director of operations for SUPER Learning Center's Faith Christian Academy. "The social and life skill training they received has been immeasurably inspiring, and SUPER can't wait to come back next school year." 

The Rotary Camp was started in 1924 by the Rotary Club of Akron originally for kids with polio and cerebral palsy. Camp Program Director J.D. Detsch said that today the camp has campers with a variety of different special needs such as physical, developmental, intellectual and about half of the campers fall in the autism spectrum. Campers are age six and up and attend day camp and overnight camp in the summer months and respite weekends are available September through May. All programs are based on developing the camper’s independence and self-esteem and making friends.

Detsch said it has been super helpful that that SUPER Learning Center kids have been at the camp to help.

"They take care of the animals, do laundry and help with a lot of little things that help us out and make our lives easier," Detsch said. "It allows us to focus our attention on other things to help grow our camp and provide services to more campers."