CERES, Calif. — Brewing, blending and stirring up coffee drinks for Ceres High School staff, the Bulldog Brew baristas are students with special needs.
The micro business was brought on by district faculty and staff to help their students with disabilities in achieving job skills for life after their school careers.
"I've seen our students grow and make big growths in their social skills," said Kelene Blevins, principal and program specialist of Leaps and Bounds. "Their understanding of the working world."
Leaps and Bounds in Ceres is an transition program for adults ages 18-22 who have disabilities. Blevins said the program through Ceres High School is meant to build independence among students.
"I feel our students can have jobs once they’re beyond the age of 22, they just need to have that hands-on experience," Blevins explained. "And we’ve seen our students in the Leaps and Bounds program get jobs in the community."
In helping pilot the program two years ago, Ceres High School special education teacher Jennifer Lewis' mission is to teach life skills and self-sufficiency to her students, and not just by making and delivering coffee.
"We go out into the community the students learn inventory, buying stuff, using dollar over skills to pay for the stuff we need," Lewis explained. "Billing, going to the bank and making deposits, so they’re learning those living skills that they need to be independent when they're older."
That independence is a source of comfort for Desiree Nicastro, whose son, Dominick, is in the program and a Bulldog Brew barista.
"That's really important because that is one of the biggest fears of a parent with a special needs child," Nicastro explained. "What if something were to happen? Would he be able to take care of himself? Would he be able to survive? That’s huge. With this program, that takes a lot of that away."
Lewis and Blevins' goal is to take the micro business further, by making it a district wide program.
"To help those teachers because it’s not just the high school," Lewis explained. "Elementary schools, junior high, sharing it with them, so the kids get used to moving around and being mobile, and then that way we include everyone."
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