Inside California Education: Kids’ Cafe

♪♪ Jamie: Nikki! Christina: At the Kids
Café in downtown Fresno, every customer here is
delivered their food with a smile. Jamie: Erica! Angel: She has
the best smile. Everyone who comes in
just compliments her, her smile, even when I’m
away at the office and they come up to me
and they’re all, “Oh, Jamie. She’s
such a, she’s so lovely.” They bring smiles
to other people. Christina: 21-year-old Jamie
Murphy works at Kids Café every weekday….
delivering orders, running the cash
register and prepping food. She’s one of about 50
special education students learning job skills at this
public restaurant owned and operated by the Fresno
County Office of Education. Angel: We have autism,
students with autism, students who are
intellectually disabled, uh, we have a
student, uh, who has a, uh, traumatic
brain injury, um, we have a student who
is hard of hearing, so we really have
a wide range of, of students and
their disabilities. For students with a
limited, work skills, we usually do the
real simple tasks, like we have them,
wipe down tables, chairs, basic
cleaning, sweeping, mopping, things like that. And then for our students
with higher abilities, such as Jamie and
Jesse, we have them on, um, the register. Jamie: What I like about it
is like they teach you like what to do if you
don’t know and um. What else I
like about it is, when the customers come
in they say hi to you. The first time I was shy,
and then I got used to it, what’s it called, I
wasn’t shy after that. Christina: Fresno
County Office of Education serves about 1,700
special education students, including 18-to-22-year-olds
enrolled in an adult transition program. Superintendent of Schools
Jim Yovino says he wanted a place where those young
adults could learn real- life skills. Jim: Really the
main focus is to, one, socialize them, make
sure they’re out in the public, that people,
uh, get to meet them, they get to meet the public. But also, uh,
prepare them for life, and, and what I mean by that
is to live independently, to seek employment and so
what better way to do that than to open our own café? Christina: Of course,
opening a café takes some expertise. So the county
turned to Paul Romero, who previously managed
a Cheesecake Factory restaurant. Paul: We tried
really hard to uh, to use the same equipment,
the same uh the same types of food, the same
ingredients that they would see in a, in a full-service
restaurant in the private sector. Um, we felt like it was
important for our students to see where their food
really comes from and how uh how the
industry really works, rather than just
giving them sort of a, a crutch to lean on while
working here in the café. Jim: We wanted our kids to
have an opportunity to learn the restaurant industry. We wanted to partner with
our local restaurants and say, “Come on in, watch
our young men and women. They’re all employable. Christina: The students
must earn a food safety certification in the
classroom before they begin working in the café. Besides cooking
and cleaning, they also learn
important social skills. Angel: He really
enjoys the register. That is like the one task
here that they all love to do. Jesse: Ten Angel: We let
them do what they have to do, and whenever they need
our assistance we step in Leah: We started in
January, and by June, we had totally
different children. Parents were really
surprised how much they had grown in so many areas. Much more than we had ever
anticipated when we started the program. Christina: The downtown
Fresno community has embraced Kids’ Café, hiring
them for catering jobs and filling tables at lunchtime. Antonio: I think it is
amazing that they have a place that they can
connect with the community, a place they can serve the
community and gain the job skills they’ll need as
adults and be able to interact with people. I think it’s amazing. Christina: And, they say
the food is top-notch. Nikkie: Food was amazing. Antonio: Food was great. Nikkie: Chowder – poblano
chowder soup was so good! Jim: We thought we were
doing it for our kids. And what we found quickly,
it was as important for our community. Most people are, they
just don’t know how to act, uh, around particularly
kids with special needs. So what it’s done is it’s,
it’s really kind of opened up the eyes of
many people to say, “Hey, these are
beautiful children, they have g-, they
have great gifts to give, and, uh, and we want
to be part of that. Paul: This is more than just
enriching the lives of the students individually. This is a call out to the
restaurant industry as a whole. Uh, we need to start
embracing uh these students as part of our workforce. Our students uh just want
the chance to show that they can do and once our industry
as a whole comes to accept that, I think uh I think
everybody will be happy.

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