Student interns help in the cafeteria

A conversation between colleagues from different departments spurred some expanding opportunities for students in Ohio.  The school nutrition team for Cleveland Metropolitan School District needed some help in the cafeteria and Justin Willis Sr., Transition Coordinator for the Special Education Department at John F. Kennedy High School was looking for jobs for his students – that’s when the idea for an internship program started.

Seven high school students are taking part in the pilot program, interning in the school’s cafeteria three days a week after lunch is served. In addition to developing the students’ work skills, the internship helps alleviate some strain caused by staffing vacancies in the school nutrition program.

“They have a list of responsibilities, from wiping down tables to taking out the trash and counting the milk,” said Mallory Packard, Area Food Supervisor for Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD. The high school students do not get paid, but they do have to sign a community-based work experience contract recognizing that this pilot program is part of their class curriculum.

The students are initially trained by the school nutrition staff and their teacher supervises them in the cafeteria.  Packard says it can be a relief for the staff to know that the student interns are handling some of the tasks often left until the end of their work day. And the students like doing it.

“I like helping other people and I’m happy to clean for school bucks and breaks,” said Ryan Wooden, CMSD student intern.

School bucks is a classroom reward system that CMSD teacher Nicole Nordbusch utilizes where students earn money and can use it to shop for items in the school store.

“This internship provides scholars with the opportunity to collaborate with others, practice job training skills and basic life skills,” said Nicole Nordbusch, Special Education teacher. CMSD is hoping to expand the intern program to some of the other high schools in the district.

The district was also recently awarded a USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) grant enabling them to provide more free fruits and vegetables to students outside of traditional meal times in the cafeteria.  Fruit and vegetable carts will be coming to 10 CMSD schools in the coming weeks. The intern program was in mind when planning to implement the fresh fruit and vegetable carts, according to Packard.

“The interns will also be helping with the set up and clean up on the carts,” said Packard. “It is important to note that the interns do not have a safe serve certification, so we had to make sure the jobs they were doing did not require it.”

Cleveland Metropolitan School District is hoping the internships can be a stepping stone or career launcher for some of these students.  

“If this can be a help to the students in any way, that is our main goal,” said Packard.

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