Geneva High School students develop work-based skills at car wash

Teacher Cailla Swanson: ’They are working on their work-based skill sets’

Geneva High School student Quentin Yung cleans the floor mats of a car as part of the school’s Vocational Exploration program’s car wash day on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023.

GENEVA – Kathryn Gallagher pulled her car up in line behind three other vehicles at Geneva High School as she waited her turn for a car wash and detailing.

She has an 18-month-old. She also has a golden-mix named Pepper that sheds.

Admittedly, there’s not much cleaning or detailing needed, but Gallagher said she wanted to support the students’ efforts.

“I found out from my neighbor that this was happening just this morning,” Gallagher said.

Seven special education students in Cailla Swanson’s Vocational Exploration class handled the washing and detailing Sept. 21 as part of their practical application of their life and work-based skills.

“They have intellectual disabilities or autism diagnoses,” Swanson said of the class, who are freshmen to seniors.

The operation involved hosing, wiping, rinsing, vacuuming – and getting a little wet.

“It’s awesome,” Swanson said. “The kids are having a lot of fun. We’ve got it broken down into stations and they are working on their work-based skill sets.”

About 70 general education students volunteered to assist during their lunch periods and study halls. They washed and detailed 35 cars and raised $1,000 to donate to local organizations that support those with special needs and their families, Swanson said.

Geneva High School student Jesus Villa Ortiz dries the back window of a car as part of the school’s Vocational Exploration program’s car wash day on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023.

Mayor Kevin Burns joined in the effort.

“I was washing tires, windows and detailing,” Burns said. “I was delighted that Ms. Swanson invited me … and put me to work to help detail vehicles and participate in the spirit of generosity witnessed that morning.”

The car wash and detailing cost $20 and the students also sold items they made in their micro-business of candles, hand soaps and fireplace fire starters using candle wax and wood shop sawdust, Swanson said.

“I teach them how to make [the items] and support them with their job coaches to become further and further independent,” Swanson said.

The assembly-line process divided up the tasks. Students hosed down the cars, washed them and rinsed them off and then moved on down for inside detailing and vacuuming.

Sophomore Ryan Barrett, who is in Swanson’s class, said he was having fun.

“I think it’s good,” Barrett said of the day’s work.

Isabelle Hauth, also a sophomore in Swanson’s class, echoed the sentiment.

“The best day in my life,” Hauth said, smiling.

Regular education seniors Jeli Santiago and Rani Foard had just begun helping out.

“Washing cars is fun,” Santiago said.