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Jobs for Montana’s Graduates class delivers Christmas trees

POLSON – Helping others in need was on the agenda for some Polson High School students this month.

Students in Mark Rochin’s Jobs for Montana’s Graduates class delivered five Christmas trees to needy families last week. The class purchased the trees at a discount from PHS government teacher Bob Hislop’s tree farm, and three students and some staff members delivered them.

“It’s always good doing something nice for somebody,” said senior Justin Young, who delivered the trees with fellow seniors Bryce Henning and Chase Murrin.

Jobs for Montana’s Graduates teacher Mark Rochin came up with the idea for his students to purchase the trees with classroom project funds provided by the state.

Rochin explained that students complete a social and civic project for the course. Two staff members who wanted to remain anonymous donated tree stands, lights and ornaments to the tree recipients, and gave two artificial trees to two other families.

“It was a wonderful thing to do,” said one of the anonymous PHS employees. “Sometimes families don’t even think about Christmas trees,” she said. “Some families have little to nothing to decorate with.”

“It was kind of a cool thing” for the PHS students who delivered the trees to see the joy and gratefulness of the recipients, she said.

The class also raised $237 for the family of Phillip Shourds Jr., a 3-year-old Pablo boy who was recently killed after he was run over by a pickup in a trailer park. That project involved students who paid $1 each to wear a hat on “Hat Day” at the school on Dec. 9, Rochin said.

Jobs for Montana’s Graduates encourages students to explore career opportunities while staying in school until they graduate. Students gain skills to be ready for employment, such a phone and interview skills, which help them make a successful transition from school into a job, a post-secondary education, apprenticeship or the military.

Rochin has taught the course for six years, and said more than 90 percent of his students have graduated and continued to college and/or regular employment. Rochin calls each graduate nine times the following year to make sure they are still on track, and reports the data to the state.

Although the class initially targeted students that were not on track to graduate, now the class also includes some with 4.0 GPAs who are eager to learn the life skills Rochin teaches.

“I’ve seen some great results,” Rochin said.

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