Putting Life Skills' Students to Work

Taking orderStaff at Burrell Middle and High Schools have access to an exclusive coffee shop every Friday. But this is no ordinary café. This one is run by students with special needs.

The program is just one part of what goes on in the intensive support classrooms, which provide specialized education for students with learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, autism, and multi-disabilities.

"Our goal for the program is to create essential learning opportunities for our students so that they can become meaningful citizens in the community," said Hannah Cress, life skills teacher at the high school.

During a normal day, Cress teaches her students seven out of 10 periods. Lessons include a wide range of both functional, academic, social, and adaptive skills to promote independence.

"For example, we are currently working on identifying grocery words, so then the students can go out into the community with their grocery lists and independently find the foods," Cress said.

The program has about 12 kids, and while it started at the middle school four years ago, this is the first year it has expanded to the high school.

"Without these rooms, these kids would have been sent to private school to receive their education," said Gregory Egnor, Director of Student Services.

One of the main components of the intensive learning rooms is the coffee shop project. At the middle school, it takes the form of a Treat Trolley that goes door to door taking orders. At the high school, it operates as the Bucco Bean Coffee Shop, which receives and delivers mobile orders.

"The kids are learning how to set up the shop, how to make a drink, how to look at the order form and fill it completely, how to properly greet a customer, and how to create change when receiving the payment for the order," Cress said.

According to Egnor, these are all vital skills that can help students sustain employment once they graduate.

"They're kind of like rock stars in the school," Egnor said. "We've really begun to rely on them, and that's only in the program's first year of existence."

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