ShareThis Page
Food & Drink

Yough Works gives special needs students in-school food service training

Mary Pickels
| Friday, April 13, 2018, 8:57 p.m.

As teachers, staff from The Nutrition Group and family members gathered in the cafeteria of Yough Senior High School one recent morning, four special-needs students were surprised with a cake and certificates thanking them for their hard work in a new pilot program.

Alexander Tucker, siblings Adam Hinerman and Andrew Hinerman and Anthony Gillott are all participating in Yough Works, an in-school job shadowing program operated through a partnership with the school district and its food service provider, The Nutrition Group.

What began in October with one student grew to four, with the students watching and learning from Nutrition Group staff members.

A district aide supports the students as they learn workforce skills, including teamwork, professionalism, customer service, communication and clerical. They assist with stocking shelves and coolers, assemble lunch foods and fill containers, as well as help to keep preparation areas clean, school officials say.

“They develop some of the soft skills needed for employment — being on time, communication ability,” says Dawn Hildenbrand, Yough's director of special education.

They also receive positive reinforcement from the cafeteria staff, adds Michelle Marker, The Nutrition Group director of programs.

“Without the Nutrition staff workers, we would not be able to do a program like this,” Hildenbrand says.

“This is just about their learning and having fun,” Marker says.

The students' schedules are individualized.

“Some work three or four days a week, some work one or two days a week. Most of them will graduate with hopes of getting employment,” Hildenbrand says.

She anticipates the program will slowly grow. “We don't want to overwhelm the staff. Given the job tasks and the space of the cafeteria and kitchen, we can only have so many students,” she says.

High school principal Brian Sutherland is particularly happy with the support he's seen other students give those in the Yough Works program.

“The whole student body has embraced this,” he says.

Building skills and a workforce

“If you look at our industry, probably the biggest problem is finding employees. There is lots of turnover, lots of competition. ... We've got this group of individuals who make good employees,” says Nancy Kohl, president of the School Food Service Division for The Nutrition Group.

“So we have partnered with Yough School District to work with their students to put them in a job training program, so that when they graduate they are eligible to be employees with The Nutrition Group,” she says.

“It started about a year ago. The district and my regional manager (Andrew Bergman) worked together to lay the groundwork, set the parameters, get the kids into the cafeteria, teach them everything they need to know to be food service employees,” Kohl adds.

“And we are very hopeful at the end of this year when they graduate, several of them will become Nutrition Group employees,” she says.

“You always learn with pilot programs. We would like to open this up to other school districts,” Marker says.

Similar programs exist in other districts, including a snack bar operation in the Elizabeth Forward School District where life skills students serve food.

Yough Works is more involved, in that its goal is developing workforce skills and transitioning students to employment, potentially with The Nutrition Group, Marker says.

“We are willing to work with districts to customize (similar programs). It takes a partnership,” she says.

Growing confidence

Tucker, 21, works with the staff in the cafeteria and independently on the lunch line as students go through with their trays.

“I serve the food. I fill the silverware, the straws, the napkins, put the food trays away. I stock,” he says.

His grandparents, Jack and Deborah Truswell of Yukon, have seen a difference since he began the job shadowing program.

“His confidence has gone up a lot. He'll set the table and put dishes away (at home). On weekends, he makes his own lunch and cleans up. He would like to get a job similar with what he does. He started a couple of days; now he works four days,” Deborah Truswell says.

“He serves, he helps me make sandwiches, he cleans up after serving. You help me wash dishes and wipe down the tables,” says Nutrition Group employee Malana Krasonic, smiling at Tucker.

“Anything that needs done, he's done,” she says.

Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MaryPickels.

Four students at Yough Senior High School, participating in a pilot job shadow program with The Nutrition Group, recently were honored for their hard work. Students, shown with cafeteria workers, are (from left) Alexander Tucker, Anthony Gillott and siblings Andrew and Adam Hinerman.
Mary Pickels
Four students at Yough Senior High School, participating in a pilot job shadow program with The Nutrition Group, recently were honored for their hard work. Students, shown with cafeteria workers, are (from left) Alexander Tucker, Anthony Gillott and siblings Andrew and Adam Hinerman.
Positive reinforcement - including cake and ice cream - was part of a recent event recognizing the pilot program Yough Works and its successful students.
Mary Pickels
Positive reinforcement - including cake and ice cream - was part of a recent event recognizing the pilot program Yough Works and its successful students.
Student Alexander Tucker prepares for a shift job shadowing The Nutrition Group employees in the Yough Senior High School cafeteria. From left are Malana Krasonic, Charlene King, Tucker, Leigh Lux and Linda Byzon.
Mary Pickels
Student Alexander Tucker prepares for a shift job shadowing The Nutrition Group employees in the Yough Senior High School cafeteria. From left are Malana Krasonic, Charlene King, Tucker, Leigh Lux and Linda Byzon.
Yough Senior High School student Alexander Tucker works with The Nutrition Group employee Malana Krasonic as they prepare to serve lunch. Tucker is one of four students The Nutrition Group recently recognized for their hard work in the pilot Yough Works job shadowing program.
Mary Pickels
Yough Senior High School student Alexander Tucker works with The Nutrition Group employee Malana Krasonic as they prepare to serve lunch. Tucker is one of four students The Nutrition Group recently recognized for their hard work in the pilot Yough Works job shadowing program.
As students begin filing into the Yough Senior High School cafeteria for lunch, Alexander Tucker, student and Yough Works job shadowing participant, helps serve fellow students.
Mary Pickels
As students begin filing into the Yough Senior High School cafeteria for lunch, Alexander Tucker, student and Yough Works job shadowing participant, helps serve fellow students.
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me