SALEM, OR (KPTV) - Students with special needs in the Salem-Keizer School District are getting a head-start on life after graduation, thanks to a program designed to help them integrate into the workforce.

The program is centered around a class called "World of Work," which has students perform tasks similar to a retail sales environment.

At North Salem High School, students spend lunch periods making and selling popcorn to their classmates and teachers.

"Students with special are really underrepresented in our community in terms of employment," said Sam Steinbrugge, a North Salem teacher who works with special needs students. " It's super important to start that conversation and start working on building their skills in the school now, so they can be even more successful."

At other schools in the district, students with special needs sell T-shirts, stickers, and even hand-made soap.

In the process, students also get more comfortable with and closer to their classmates.

"It's pretty cool to see how everybody's day is going and see what they're planning for the weekend. Because normally you're walking down the hallway, you're not going to talk to the kids, you just walk right past them," said Jason Koutsinger, a North Salem senior.

Money raised through sales goes toward field trips to career development and job placement centers, and to charities of the students' choice.

Copyright 2019 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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