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CPS Program Empowers Students with Disabilities to Discover Career Opportunities

A CPS program for students with disabilities is serving up kindness in a variety of career fields.

“When students start a new job, they’re always somewhat nervous so I like seeing their attitudes change over the eight to nine weeks,” Madelaine Solimini, Aiken High School intervention specialist and Project Life instructor, said. “They take it so seriously and are incredibly hardworking. It’s awesome to see them be successful.” 

The Project Life pre-employment program connects students with local businesses, helping them learn job skills and explore career opportunities. 

Most recently, a group of Aiken High School students took over Sleepy Bee Cafe in College Hill. The restaurant, typically closed on Tuesdays, opened for a special inclusive cafe each week where students took over every role of the operation from hosting to taking orders and serving food.

Sleepy Bee College Hill general manager Julie Sunderland says the students now have the skills of coming into a job, clocking in, looking for side work, performing their duties and checking in with their manager.

“It’s really hard to find outgoing people,” Sunderland added. “I would hire any one of them to be greeters.”

“The kids get so excited and they take such pride their uniforms and having power and a voice and being part of everyday society contributing, participating and learning and being proud of what it is that they’re doing,” Aiken Principal Lisa Votaw said. 

Solimini believes the career exploration students are experiencing will help prepare them to enter the workforce. 

“I get to see them mature and grow and be so much more confident when they come here,” Solimini said. 

More than 30 patrons showed up at Sleepy Bee for final day of the pop-up cafe. 

“My teammates got a lot of energy, so we can handle that,” student Brandon Davis said.