Finish line ahead for Post-High Learning Lab

Rachel Dorton and Mark Dorton stand in the Post-High Learning Lab house amid renovations.

The finish line is in sight for Waynesboro and Augusta County schools’ newly renovated Post-High Learning Lab.

Employees from Valley Trust Insurance Group have volunteered their time with painting and cleaning to get the house ready. The two school systems hope students can begin to use the house on October 15, according to a press release.

In the meantime, Valley Trust will match community donations up to $2,000 “to make this house a home.”

Funding for construction and appliances has been possible, but the house still needs funding for handicap-accessible furniture, furnishings, decorations and landscaping.

Finishing costs for the house are estimated at $7,500, the press release stated.

The Post-High Learning Lab will offer students ages 18 to 22 who are from Waynesboro and Augusta County schools independent living and employment support opportunities after high school. Previously, the program has been house at Wilson Memorial High School.

Mark Dorton owns Valley Trust, and his daughter, Rachel, is one of the students who will be in the first group to participate in the opportunities available at the Post-High Learning Lab.

“We are very passionate about this project,” said Mark Dorton in the press release. “Not only because my daughter is in the program, but other employees of Valley Trust have children with special needs also.”

Dorton said that Valley Trust wants “to help our community where there is a genuine need.”

Rachel’s mother, Marcy, who has a degree in interior decorating, has helped with painting and cleaning, as well as offered to help students hang photos and decorate the house’s interior.

Marcy Dorton said in the press release that Rachel has made more progress with the Post High program “than she could do herself at home.”

“Rachel is learning day-to-day living skills, budgeting, interviews and job skills,” said Marcy Dorton in the press release. “In Post High, Rachel has had the opportunity to work four different jobs, go on interviews and be proud of herself and her accomplishments.”

What Rachel has not had the opportunity thus far to accomplished, her mother said, is experiencing the feeling of independence gained by taking care of yourself in a house setting.

“This home will give all these young adults the opportunity to learn the skills needed and that feeling of independence,” she said. “What a gift not only for my daughter but for all those coming up after her.”

Mark Dorton said that the aim is for the house to be a home for the students during school hours.

“This project is special to me because it creates unique opportunities for students," said Dr. Ryan N. Barber, director of student services for Waynesboro Public Schools, in the press release. “It has tremendous community support.”

Barber credits the support of Augusta County Schools, the Shenandoah Valley Regional Program, The United Way of Greater Augusta, the Waynesboro/Augusta Woman’s Club and many other community partners and volunteers for the success of the project.

“I believe the families and caregivers will have peace of mind that their child is practicing independent living skills in an authentic, structured and supportive environment,” said Barber in the press release. “After participating in the programming at the home, the students will be more ready to enter the workforce and live independently.”

To donate to the Post High House project, visit https://www.gofundme.com/post-high-building-fund. For volunteer opportunities, contact Kristi Williams with the United Way of Greater Augusta at (540) 885-1229 or kristi.williams@unitedway.org.

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