BRIDGEWATER, NJ - One year after the ground breaking, the Somerset County Educational Services Commission celebrated the grand opening of The Career Center of the SCESC with a special ribbon cutting ceremony May 20.

“The building promotes the feeling of well-being with an amazing design,” said Hal Dunsavage, superintendent of the SCESC. “The Career Center will benefit special education students who need career training.”

The building houses career programs for special education students from all over the county and beyond, in grades nine through 12. It is the result of a collaboration between the SCESC, the Somerset County Vocational & Technical High School and ShopRite.

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The center, Dunsavage said, is made up of three separate shop opportunities.

The first is a Supermarket Careers program, sponsored by ShopRite, and which is for training in entry-level supermarket and retail positions. Students work a supermarket environment modeled on a ShopRite store.

The concept for the program in Somerset County began three years ago, according to Phil Solomon, of Wakefern Foods, a cooperative with ShopRite.

“The mini ShopRite is all about the students and the learning,” he said. “This is our 18th program with more coming. We have trained more than 5,000 special needs kids through the program, and we hope to train many more.”

The Vo-Tech will operate the Power Equipment & Small Engine Technology program where students will learn how to repair and maintain equipment with hands-on experience working with engines, tractors, generators and motorcycles. It will enable them to get jobs in places like STS and Goodyear.

The Graphic Arts & Design program will introduce students to skills and applications for computer programming, hardware services, graphic design, desktop publishing and more. This will enable them to get jobs in places like Staples and Kinkos.

“We are glad this vision is now a reality,” Dunsavage said.

Chrys Harttraft, superintendent of the Vo-Tech, said she believes this is tangible evidence of the different organizations working together.

“This allows students to be successful by using their hands,” she said.

Dunsavage said the program will allow special education students to develop the skills necessary to obtain jobs. There are currently 17 students in the program, and they can hold more than 70.

Students can stay in the program until they are 21, Dunsavage said.

“The students are excited and there is a feeling of hope for them,” he said. “This doesn’t exist anywhere else.”

“Every kids deserves the right to the best education possible,” he added.