New Waterfront Bistro Giving Students With Special Needs Workforce Experience

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HOMESTEAD (KDKA) — The AlleC Bistro is no ordinary café. It’s a business with a purpose.

“I have to say, it’s a dream come true,” said student Shamar Scott.

A dream come true for eight students.

“They’re from our three center schools. They’re from Sunrise School, Pathfinder School and Mon Valley School,” said Work-Based Learning Coordinator for the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, Jodi Reimers.

These schools are focused on teaching students with disabilities. The Allegheny Intermediate Unit, or AIU, provides specialized services to dozens of schools in Allegheny County. There’s one new program, the AlleC Bistro located inside the AIU building at the Waterfront.

The bistro opened on Oct. 17, and it gives students real-world work experience before they graduate.

“I think sometimes there is an impression out there,” said AIU Assistant Executive Director of Special Education Services Nanci Sullivan.

Sullivan, with the AIU, spearheaded the program.

“The more experience they have, and the more training that they have, they’re sometimes more dependable than other employees,” said Sullivan.

KDKA’s Amy Wadas: “How do you like working for the AlleC?”

Student Dakota Alwald: “It’s fun!”

“I like running the cashier and food service, serving customers,” said student Tobias Stevenson.

“Clean, serve and that’s it,” said student Quien Smalls.

Working at the AlleC Bistro teaches these students things they may not have had the opportunity to learn otherwise, like time management, social skills and independence.

Wadas: “What do you think about getting the work experience?”

Student Dashawn Braxton: “I think it’s great.”

The AlleC Bistro is open to the public for breakfast and lunch, and folks love the idea.

“It’s nice to interact with students because those of us that work in this building, administration, we support these programs, but we don’t often get to see the students,” said Lisa Kusek, who works inside the AIU building.

With this support, these students are able to look forward to what’s next.

Wadas: “Do you want to get out into the working world when you get out of school?

Braxton: “Yes ma’am!”

Another set of students will work at the bistro starting in January. Sunrise, Pathfinder and Mon Valley schools are in the process of seeking additional funding for gardens to grow fresh vegetables that will be used for the bistro.

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