Every weekday morning, students at Marietta High School can be seen taking a quick break to pick up their coffee and hot chocolate orders as the school’s “Coffee Cart” makes its way down the hallways. On any given day they will meet Darby Parker, one of the leaders of the small business, who helps to organize the orders and collect payments from students and faculty members.
A school-based enterprise operated by students with intellectual disabilities, the Coffee Cart has been in operation at MHS for 12 years with 25 students participating in its daily operations. The cart provides students like Darby with the opportunity to work on the real-life skills they are learning in class and can translate to life after high school such as counting money, making eye contact with customers, greeting customers, prepping beverages, and stocking the carts. Participating students, like Darby, work on three domains: education/training, employment, and daily living skills.
“Exposure precedes preferences, so it is essential to provide students with the opportunity to try various jobs, skills, and activities, so they can understand what their preferences, strengths, and interests are,” says Angelina Snider, Transition Specialist and Success Coach in the district’s Department of Special Services (DSS). “Participating in the coffee cart provides the students with an opportunity to grow in confidence and their skills. The students interact with almost everyone in the building. The teachers begin by placing the students in jobs according to their strengths and the students rotate through the jobs throughout their time at the high school.”
“Darby and her peers receive individualized support from their teachers, based on their individual needs,” explains Michele Bealing-Sayles, Assistant Superintendent of Special Services at MCS. “School-based enterprises are essential for students with intellectual disabilities to practice real-world job skills with support while in high school.”
The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) recognizes March 4-8, 2019 as Exceptional Children’s Week across the country. This year’s theme is “Building Blocks for Successful Students”. The Council for Exceptional Children is a professional organization of educators, parents and students dedicated to advancing the success of children with disabilities.
Marietta serves 924 students with disabilities in grades Pre-school through 12, ages 3 through 22. MCS offers services in every area of exceptionality, including visual impairments, autism, blindness, deaf hard of hearing and learning disabilities. The district provides assistive technology at all grade levels, enabling students to better participate in the general education setting.
“Our primary goal involves the use of system, school, grade level, and student-specific data to meet the needs of all learners, helping to grow the experiences and opportunities of students with exceptionalities while in school and after graduation,” says Bealing-Sayles.
So the next time you see the Coffee Cart coming down the hallway, know that it is more than an opportunity to take a break and enjoy a beverage, it is a specially designed program created to provide soft skills, work, career and employment-training opportunities for our exceptional students so that they graduate from high school better able to be successful citizens.