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Special Education Students Work the School Café

Students Learn Life Skills and Gain Experience for Possible Assisted Employment


Student serves guests at the school cafe


Every Friday in the Culinary classroom at Brookhaven Learning Center (BLC), the special education students in Kim Lazaro’s class prepare and serve lunch to patrons who’ve made reservations to dine in the school café. The diners are school administrators, teachers and other staff members.


Student stands at the cafe counter with an order she has taken


With assistance, students produce the lunch-of-the-day and ready the café for customers. Everyone has assigned responsibilities, which include prepping food, cooking, wrapping cutlery in napkins, setting tables, pouring drinks, taking orders, serving food, washing dishes and operating the commercial dishwasher. Additionally, students also compile in-school electronic food orders and provide delivery.


Student pours glasses of water


The culinary course is one of the BLC’s transitional services programs that use hands-on, project-based learning in true-to-life environments – in this case, a commercial kitchen and working café – to teach life and employment skills. “These experiences help students to become more independent,” explained Lazaro. “Hopefully, they could also allow them to obtain supported employment in a similar place of business, such as in the food service industry.” Brookhaven Learning Center is an Eastern Suffolk BOCES school that provides special education services to students with special needs.


Student loads the commercial dishwasher