A job skills program at Huntley High School is helping turn special education students' talents into a profitable candle-making business.
Students started making candles last December with $250 in seed money from a District 158 Foundation grant used to purchase materials.
Since January, they have sold more than $1,000 worth of "EdSpecial Scents" candles at the Huntley Farmers Market. Profits support student lunches, community outings, supplies and other expenses, said Deb Udelhofen, Huntley High special education teacher who oversees the job skills lab.
The clean-burning, soy wax candles have natural fiber wicks and are sold in 8-ounce Mason jars. Students have incorporated seasonal- and holiday-themed scents, including fall favorites such as fireside and pumpkin, and eggnog, gingerbread, sugar cookies and Christmas tree.
At $4 each, they are selling like hot cakes with the support of teachers and community members, Udelhofen said.
"They are very proud of what they have done, that they are actually able to make a product that people want to purchase," she said. "We have really been working on product quality this year. (Students) realize that you have to really work hard to make something work."
The 19 students in the job skills program, ranging from freshmen to seniors, make candles one day a week and sell them at the farmers market the first Saturday of each month inside the American Legion Hall during winter. Students will sell holiday-themed scented candles from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Leggee Elementary Holiday Craft Fair, 13723 Harmony Road, Huntley.
As part of the program, students learn consumer service, computer technology, processing and production, business marketing and construction. They learn functional skills, such as counting, handling money and communicating with people in the community.
"Hopefully, these are the skills that they can carry with them," Udelhofen said. "It can be applied to other employment opportunities that they have. It's one thing to learn (from curriculum), but to actually put it into practice in a real-world setting ... that's where they really master it and feel more comfortable with it."