Alexander Graham Bell once said, “when one door closes another one opens” and this indeed was this outcome for a West Shore Career-Tech program this year.  In March, long-time community partner Bonne Bell closed its Westlake operation.  And with that closing, a West Shore community-based training program lost its workplace training location. 

As a temporary solution, RaeAnn Suburban Nursing Facility, which already partners with West Shore, graciously offered to provide a location to complete the school year. However, West Shore administrators knew they needed to find a new partner to continue to provide diverse work site experiences for students.

The door has been opened for West Shore Career-Tech at Gordon Food Service located at 1363 W. 117th Street.  Students arrive at the store at 8 am and head back to their home school at 10am.  While at GFS, their work-learning responsibilities include light duty work, facing and fronting shelved items, parking lot attending, cleaning, and maintaining the box bins.  At the same time, they are learning safety practices, building social skills, time management, teamwork, and other employability skills.  Program teacher Kelly Dow shared, “Students are working on customer service skills by asking customers if they need assistance and then taking them to the appropriate location in the aisle. Each Friday the students write about their week reflecting on who they worked with, what they did, what their favorite job was & why, what is something they can work on, etc.”

Diane Kastelic, Vocational Special Education Coordinator said “West Shore’s community based training programs are designed to support identified special needs students in learning and practicing work skills in a real-life community setting with the support of teachers and actual staff from the worksite.  GFS has become a wonderful partner for West Shore.”

Theresa Hirko, GFS Shift Leader who has spent 15 years working with people with disabilities, commented, “I have always wanted to be part of an effort that incorporates students with work skills training.  West Shore Career-Tech approached us with the idea of using our store as a work training site. GFS has very high expectations for their retail stores and we are frequently visited by secret shoppers.  With that in mind, I wanted to ensure that we could maintain our level of excellence while not overtaxing the students in their learning environment.”

The partnership is working.  Students are learning and feeling good about their contributions.  GFS is receiving positive feedback from their customers.  One customer even said it makes him want to shop at the store more often.

Serving over 1,700 high school students across Bay Village, Lakewood, Rocky River, and Westlake school districts, West Shore Career-Technical District provides relevant, real-world academic and technical experience preparing students for further education, professional programs, and/or immediate employment.  To learn more, find us

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