WASHINGTON — It's all in the cards for the students in Washington Community High School's transition program.

Christmas cards. Birthday cards. Thank you cards. Get well cards. Graduation cards. The transition students make them all.

Producing and selling the one-of-a-kind cards in their classroom workshop in a second-year project called Cards for Kindness teaches the eight special needs students ages 18 to 22 skills they can take to their jobs in the outside world.

"Through Cards for Kindness, our students learn about teamwork, communication, customer service, advocating for themselves .... " said Jill Wood, the transition program's teacher.

"They also learn how to follow single- and multi-step directions, and do assembly line work pattern/sequence work," Wood said. "Everything can be transferred to their outside world jobs."

Teamwork is emphasized.

"We teach that if everyone doesn't show up with a positive attitude and readiness to work, it can impact the entire team," Wood said.

Each Cards for Kindness card is branded with a button "because in our classroom, we believe buttons build futures," Wood said.

Transition students sold 12 dozen Christmas cards at Limestone-Washington boys basketball games earlier this month in Washington's Torry Gym.

A unified basketball game between Washington and Limestone teams of special needs and non-special needs students was held between the sophomore and varsity games.

Not all Cards for Kindness cards are sold. Many are donated.

Thank you cards have gone to veterans on a Greater Peoria Honor Flight, active service members overseas and veterans in a VA hospital, and cards have gone to a nursing home.

"Our card program has exploded this year," Wood said. "We sold and donated about 500 cards last school year. We've sold and donated more than 1,000 cards this school year."

Washington's transition program also is famous at the high school for its Panther Perk service, now in its fourth year.

Transition students fill and deliver weekly orders from staff members submitted on a Google form for hot and cold coffee, hot and cold tea, hot chocolate, soda and energy snacks.

"We get about 50 orders a week, mainly hot coffee," Wood said. "It takes about a period and a half each Friday to make what needs to be made and deliver the orders."

Wood said transition students learn food service skills, math skills from handling money, purchasing products and keeping inventory, and time management from Panther Perk.

"One of the most important lessons my students learn from Panther Perk is the importance of a strong work ethic," Wood said.

"And they have to communicate with not only their customers but each other to fill orders accurately and in a timely manner, just as they would in an employment setting."

The lessons transition students are learning from Cards for Kindness and Panther Perk are paying off. Woods said students are working at places such as Prep Freeze Cook, Brickhouse restaurant, Brunk's Sports Center and Kroger.

Donations of an embossing machine and commercial cold coffee maker for Cards for Kindness and Panther Perk have been a blessing to the transition program, Wood said.

Money earned from Cards for Kindness and Panther Perk is used to replace supplies and for lunch outings for the transition students.

"The lunch outings are great opportunities for socialization," Wood said.

Transition students, all Washington graduates, also learn daily living skills through hands-on experiences.

Deb Fox is the program's teaching assistant and job coach and high school co-op teacher Lindsey Boitnett helps the transition students find employment.

Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or stevestein21@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.