Chester County IU24: Coffee Shop is a Bridge to the Working World

In Chester County’s bustling government and judicial centers, special-needs students working at the County Cup  ‘grab-and-go’ cafes gain valuable experience that they’ll use in the workforce as adults. But they aren’t actually working available jobs in a local business separate from school. The work is highly tailored to their skills and interests, because County Cup is owned and operated by Chester County IU 24.  

County Cup was launched in December 2012, in a lucky convergence of interests. CCIU wanted to increase community acceptance for special-needs students. Chester County government officials wanted a business in the county government services center that incorporated young adults with disabilities. From an initial grab-and-go kiosk, County Cup has grown to a 90-seat facility in the county courthouse and a 16-seat café in the county offices, plus a catering business.

From morning prep to closing, the people making sandwiches and coffee, cleaning tables, running cash registers, taking inventory, and serving customers are teens and young adults whose IEPs, or Individualized Education Programs, indicate transition to employment after graduation. At County Cup, students land “in a supportive setting because we are running the program,” says Laurie Masino, CCIU’s community-based instruction supervisor.

“We can take students of all levels of abilities and needs, carving out some opportunities they might not have otherwise had the opportunity to explore because it’s in our own setting,” says Masino.
The effort also includes CCIU’s career and technical schools, where graphic design students created the business name and logo, and culinary students make two soup specials and desserts daily. 
County Cup demonstrates to potential business partners that the CCIU is doing its share for students transitioning to employment, says County Cup Project Manager Scot Semple. Plus, the initiative raises awareness about the capabilities of special-needs students.

“People get to see the type of work the young adults are able to do,” says Semple. “They’re not limited to work in a workshop or other setting with limited access to the general community. They become an employee like everyone else!”

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