Student-run café at Devereux’s Glenholme School helps youth develop essential skills
Whether they are greeting customers, processing orders, preparing meals, collecting payments or sanitizing the kitchen and dining areas, youth at Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Connecticut – The Glenholme School are learning valuable job, life and social skills through The Commons, an on-campus, student-run café.
Depending on the goals set in each student’s individualized education plan, youth in grades nine through 12 have an opportunity to work at The Commons three days per week, learning the ins and outs of restaurant operations.
“Every one of our students has a specific role, and each role is critical to the overall success of the café,” said Glenholme School Culinary Arts Instructor Andrew Kepics. “Like any other job, our students need to show up on time, follow directions and work well in a team environment. Working in the café allows them to explore their strengths and interests in a supportive and structured setting.”
Glenholme School Executive Director Noah Noyes also noted, “The Commons is much more than a popular lunch spot on campus. The students who work there are gaining real-world job experience that they can take with them after they leave Glenholme. These individuals are building executive functioning skills – they are learning how to plan, focus their attention, remember instructions and juggle multiple tasks successfully.”
Developing skills; cooking up confidence
Griffin, a 12th-grade student who works at The Commons, says he has gained a deeper understanding and appreciation of how a restaurant kitchen operates.
“I like being able to work in different jobs, and learn how each job fits into how a restaurant works,” Griffin shared. “My favorite job is working on the grill – it is challenging, but fun.”
Griffin says there is always something new to learn.
“I am learning about cleaning and sanitizing procedures,” Griffin explained. “I am also learning how to make chocolate chip cookies and how to safely use the fryer for different appetizers and entrees.”
Rising to new challenges
Students who work at The Commons gain experience in all aspects of the restaurant.
“I want our students to know what it is like to work in both the front and back of the house,” Kepics said. “That way, they are exposed to all of the different roles in a restaurant. In addition, we take into account our students’ strengths and needs. For example, if a student is trying to improve their social skills, they may remain working as a host, greeting customers as they walk in.”
Kepics says the most rewarding part of the experience for him is seeing students persevere in the face of challenges.
“That is the best feeling in the world, when you work with a student who has a setback and they persevere,” Kepics noted. “You see that perseverance pay off – it’s like teaching a kid how to ride a bike. When you take the training wheels off, there is excitement and that excitement in contagious. That experience creates confidence, independence, motivation and goal-setting – it’s fantastic when you see it all fall into place.”
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