Students gain job skills by opening Parsons Perks cafe
MILFORD >> Students from the Fifth Year Vocational Experience program have opened Parsons Perks, A Community Café in the Parsons Government Center, 70 W. River St.
The cart offers city employees and visitors coffees, cold beverages, fruit and packaged snacks weekdays.
The business is designed to give public school students with special needs important vocational skills.
Traffic has been steady, with employees visiting and asking questions about the cart and its operation.
Emma Grace, a student-member of the Parsons Perks team, said she is happy to be involved and is learning many new things that will help her in the future.
“I really like it! The best part is I’m getting great experience working with people in the community and I’m learning a lot about budgeting and handling money. I love it.”
She plans to be involved in the business for a few more years and hopes to take some college courses in the future.
The idea to start a business was the brainchild about a year ago of Joanne Barrett, a public school teacher and transition coordinator involved with the FYVE program at The Academy on Gulf Street.
“My mission was to create a way for my students to learn valuable employability skills in a public environment,” Barrett said.
“These students have huge potential and can easily become taxpaying, contributing citizens, but they needed a way to get some real experience before they transition from school to work,” Barrett said.
“I think this is a wonderful way to do just that!” Barrett said.
The project could have been described as a “labor of love” as Barrett and her colleagues, Caroline Ferri and Patty Doheny attended to the many details involved in establishing a business.
They got a hand from Health Department Sanitarian Laura Miller and public schools Director of Facilities Patrick Bradbury, who assisted with getting the licenses and meeting city food service requirements.
Equipment for the venture was realized through business donations and ingenuity.
Westfield/Connecticut Post mall donated a service cart, which was refurbished.
And Nantucket Embroidery came up with the signage and the maroon aprons worn by the students while they are working.
Superintendent of Schools Elizabeth Feser was delighted with the new business and the work of all involved.
“Parsons Perks is a wonderful addition on so many levels,” Feser said.
“For our students in the FYVE Program, they have the opportunity to learn and apply genuine workplace skills, communication, finance, customer relations, collaboration, and problem solving.
“And for those who work in or visit Parsons, what a bonus it is to be able to interact with and support our students while purchasing coffee, tea, fruit or another healthy snack,” Feser said.
“I commend all of the staff members who made this program possible, and I applaud the students for their eagerness and dedication,” Feser said.
The cart will be open Monday to Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Fridays, 8:30 to 11 a.m., during the school year and for most of July.
The FYVE program also has partnerships with Schick, Walmart, Nantucket Embroidery, IT Recovery Specialists, and Oscar’s Bistro, providing supported work experiences for the students at no cost to the employer.