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Students earn their food handler's license to work at The Nest.

Photo+by+Jenna+Axsom
Photo by Jenna Axsom

Photo by Jenna Axsom

Photo by Jenna Axsom

Ashley Tindall

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A place of warm smiles and even warmer drinks, The Nest is a place where tasty beverages and job skills are made. The Nest supplies developmentally disabled students with a opportunity to learn skills that can help them in life after high school.

“Working in The Nest gives the students exposure to what a work day can look like, it gives them exposure to working with customers, to problem solving and things like that,” Special Education teacher Jessica King said. “Thinking on your feet, as well as just how you get along with your co-workers. Some of us learn because we’re forced to and some of us have opportunities to practice that and this is giving them that practice opportunity.”

One of the state requirements to work in The Nest is a food handler’s license. Students earn this by taking an online test provided by the Clay County Health Department. Students can also receive their food safety manager’s license.

“It’s a permit for them to be able to work,” Special Education teacher Scott Sportsman said.  “They have to pass a test that shows that they know proper safe food handling.”

The food handler’s license takes lots of work and preparation to earn. The students work in class and can earn prizes for working hard for their license.

“I took the test and got my food handler’s license in November,” freshman Zachary Hargiss said. “It made me excited because I studied hard and worked hard for it.”

The Nest currently has 15 students with their food handler’s license. The process to earn a job at The Nest is similar to the process of getting a job at a restaurant or another place of business. The students must complete an application and interview process to see if working in The Nest is something they would like to do and what job is best suited for them.

Their food handler’s license and job at The Nest provides them with another opportunity: the Job Olympics. The Job Olympics is a event orchestrated by King for students in the Northland with developmental disabilities where they compete in job-related tasks and build on job-related skills.

“It takes place in April,” King said. “I think we’re up to 113 individuals who are competing for different vocational activities where they work on employability things. It’s just a fun event.”

Working at The Nest and competing in the Job Olympics leaves a mark with the students and teaches them skills they’ll need later in life.

“I think it’s probably impactful in many different ways depending on the student you ask. I hopeful that it gives them exposure to what a work day can look like,” King said. “ I hope it impacts the regular population as well and the rest of the school and gives them an opportunity to interact with our students that maybe they wouldn’t have if The Nest didn’t exist.”

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