Full circle: Former TMS student hired at alma mater

New Thompson Middle School employee Michael Harvee, right, helps school secretary Mary Hines, left, with the school's attendance records on Aug. 20. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

New Thompson Middle School employee Michael Harve, right, helps school secretary Mary Hines, left, with the school’s attendance records on Aug. 20. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

ALABASTER – Thompson Middle School’s newest employee, Michael Harve, had to pause the interview for a moment when the school’s front security doorbell sounded.

“Excuse me for just a moment,” Harve said as he turned and pressed a button on the school’s security monitor and intercom system to talk to the man and child standing outside the TMS front door.

After buzzing in the man and his son, Harve, who uses a wheelchair for mobility, checked in the student and dropped the tardy slip into the appropriate basket in the school’s main office.

Since starting his new job in the TMS front office on Aug. 18, Harve has quickly become accustomed to his duties as an Alabaster City Schools employee. But on Aug. 20, he was still getting used to the feeling of working alongside the teachers and staff members who were at the school when he was a student several years ago.

Through his involvement with Project SEARCH, which works with special-needs students in Shelby County and Alabaster schools to offer the students internships and post-graduation jobs, Harve is experiencing a surreal feeling.

“It’s almost like being a student again. All these years later, who would have thought I’d be back at school as an employee,” Harve said. “It’s the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Through his job, Harve buzzes visitors into the school using the security system, checks tardies each day, answers the front office phone, places mail in teachers’ mailboxes and more.

Project SEARCH Job Coach Kim Kielbasa said Harve is the first student to complete the program and then be hired as an employee with the school system he attended.

“It’s quite an accomplishment,” Kielbasa said, noting the ACS Warrior Center for special-needs students is housed in TMS. “For students who are going through the Warrior Center to see Mikee working here, it shows them what can be accomplished.”

TMS Principal Neely Woodley called Harve “Mister TMS.”

“We love new employees, but to have a new employee that was a student in the system, it just adds so much,” Woodley said.

For Harve, the hard work to reach his goal has been worth it.

“To see all of the students getting an education every day, that’s the main thing I enjoy,” Harve said.