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Occupational Skills Program

Address: Dexter Terrace, Town of Tonawanda

Enrollment: 100 students

When I tell people what school I go to, most ask, "What does OSP stand for?"

OSP, or Occupational Skills Program, is an alternative high school run by Erie I BOCES. Kenmore-Tonawanda, Tonawanda, North Tonawanda, Clarence, Alden, Williamsville and Sweet Home send their students to OSP.

Students who attend OSP come for different reasons. Some have had discipline and/or attendance problems at their home schools; however, a few have chosen to attend OSP in hopes of receiving an education free from distractions.

The main difference between OSP and a "traditional" high school is that we don't attend school every day, week after week. Instead we have a school/work program, alternating school and work during school hours.

The student body is split into two groups, each with around 50 students. When A group is in school, B group is at work, and the following week, they switch places. Instead of having 25 to 35 students per classroom, we have 10 to 15. This allows the teacher to give more attention to students who need help. Students 16 and older might work at fast-food restaurants or Blockbuster Video; those under 16 often work at school jobs such as in the kitchen or bus garage or the day-care center on campus.

Unfortunately, going to an alternative school isn't all perks. We don't have any sports teams, although students can participate in sports at their home school. We don't have our own prom, dances, pep rallies or graduation. Every student is allowed to attend any of these functions at their home school. Our school also does not have its own library, nor are we offered music or language classes.

Like other high schools, we do have a gym. We have to pass the same state assessments as everyone else. We have a cafeteria, dubbed a "cafetorium," that doubles as an auditorium for special events. Seniors are given a special privilege of going out to lunch if they are passing, have good attendance and show up at school on time. Another perk in going to an alternative school, besides the smaller number of students and not having class every week, is the homework load. Unlike other schools, we don't get inundated with homework. Since the teachers teach us what we need to know for the exam, our homework load is based on that. Another plus is that we get to meet students from different districts.

The past couple months, Nancy Amico, our art teacher, had a few students involved in the Schoellkopf-Vom Berge Buffalo Decorator Show House. We hand-painted a school of 3-D fish for a hallway inside the Show House entitled "Under the Sea." After the Show House is done with them, our fish will be donated to Children's Hospital.

Last September we had the chance to attend a camp called Having Empowered Leaders as Peers (HELP). A few of us accepted the invitation, not really knowing what we would get out of it. The camp focused on teaching about sexually transmitted diseases, now known as STIs (sexually transmitted infections). Now, as peer mentors, some of us mentor kids at Erie 1 Middle School Program, informing them about the dangers involved in drugs, violence, alcohol abuse and STIs.

Most high schools do not go on many field trips. We have gone to Niagara Falls, Devil's Hole in the Niagara Gorge, downtown Buffalo to see the Herd About Buffalo exhibit, Toronto, Griffis Sculpture Park and Red Pines in Silver Lake, which has a rope course with team-building activities. We have gone-roller skating, bowling and ice-skating, visited museums and gone to the Show House and to the Freedom Writers Forum on Tolerance. Our final field trip is a dress-up luncheon that serves as a final farewell to the seniors. It's the day we get our yearbooks and reflect on the school year.

It's all the little things that make OSP a great school to attend. OSP offers every one of its students a second chance for a fresh start. As our principal Mr. Ozimek would say: "Turn yourself around at OSP."

Deena Blendowski, a junior at OSP, also attends the KenTon Career Center for Cosmetology.

Meet some students from OSP:

Amanda Hebblethwaite, senior
Favorite expression: "Do not find a fault, find a remedy."

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? My explosive temper.

Favorite band: Tupac
What do you dread? Listening to people whine.

Hobbies: Writing poetry.

What's your fanatical obsession? Dogs

Prized possession: My Rottweiler-Chew mix, China.

Todd Gugino, junior
Favorite band: Wu-Tang Clan.

Favorite movie: "Scarface."

Prized possession: My stereo.

Favorite meal: Chicken finger sub.

What is the meaning of life? To save a life.

Top priority if I were president: Build homeless shelters everywhere.

Favorite childhood toy: Hot Wheels.

Ed Kirbis, sophomore:
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? My glasses.

What do you aspire to do after high school? Hockey player

Favorite expression: Blood is thicker than water.

Favorite band: Aerosmith

Favorite song: "Stairway to Heaven."

Favorite movie: "Gladiator."

Biggest influence: My father.

Prized possession: My original Sabres puck.

What is the meaning of life: Live it to the fullest.

Robert Harper, senior
Favorite expression: "All work, no play makes (Robby) a dull boy."

If you had one wish, no matter the consequences, what would it be? To change my attitude about school so I wouldn't have screwed up.

Favorite band: Goo Goo Dolls

Worst movie you've ever seen: "Titanic."

Dream job: Owning a construction business.

Hobbies: Golf, fix-it projects.

What do you dread? Not graduating from high school.

Biggest influence on you: Dad.

Marty Pasternak, senior
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? My temper.

What do you aspire to be or do once out of high school? Guidance counselor, psychologist

Favorite band: Crazy Town, Lifehouse.

Favorite movie: "Silence of the Lambs."

Favorite childhood toy: My mini-drumset.

Prized possession: Myself.

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