Cruising with East Clarendon
by Laura Stone | April 27, 2018 8:46 am
Last Updated: April 27, 2018 at 8:53 am
Stacy Fitts, a special education teacher at East Clarendon High School, is taking a 53-person group on a cruise to the Bahamas, which will also make a stop at Princess Cays. The group consists of 17 special needs children and 10 student aides, plus parents, teachers, and others from the community who wish to go.
Fitts, a Turbeville native, graduated from Winthrop University and taught special education classes at Manning High School, eventually making the move to East Clarendon Middle High School. She encouraged ECMHS to pursue grants to instate the Occupational Partnerships for Tomorrow (OPT) program, and in 2005, they succeeded. The program has gone through ups and downs, but Fitts is excited about the program’s growth in the last five years. “They’re even doing an occupational diploma, which will be available to the upcoming ninth-graders,” Fitts said. Previously they had been awarded certificates.
Her students learn life skills in her classrooms including how to cook, use a dishwasher, and use the washing machine and dryer. Fitts’ class also runs the school canteen, which offers lunch alternatives during the day and offers snacks and drinks at school sporting events. She takes her students shopping for the supplies at Sam’s Club, where they learn to assess costs, amounts needed, and selection processes. In the canteen, the students wait on customers, serve food and drinks, clean, stock and make change for purchases.
At age 16, her students can participate in a job program for school credit a few hours per week. Fitts is also working with the school for custodial training for her students.
“They work hard, and they don’t get paid,” said Fitts. But their pay comes in the form of the incentive trips. The canteen’s success, combined with fundraisers, earns enough money to take the kids on a trip each year. Previous years’ trips have included Gatlinburg and Dollywood, the beach, and their first cruise. This year, they’ll go on their second cruise.
Fitts is looking forward to another Carnival cruise. “Carnival is really good to us. They take us straight onto the boat and don’t make us wait.” But it’s not all just fun and games. Fitts ensures the students know how to plan what to take on the trip and pack their own luggage as well as unpack it. While on the boat, the children learn social interactions and gain life experiences in how to handle travel and the unexpected.
But Fitts is ready for whatever comes. No matter where she is with her kids, whether on a trip or in the classroom, she finds fulfillment. “It’s all good. It’s always exciting. Never a dull moment. Sometimes it’s frustrating, but it’s always good.”