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Shake Shack: BAC Students Learn Vocational Skills

Shake Shack: BAC Students Learn Vocational Skills

The goal of every school is to give students opportunities to learn skills that they can use in real-life adult situations after they graduate. BAC is no different in this regard, and as several of our students transition into adulthood, we continue to develop and strengthen programs that enhance work and vocational skills. One of the most recent and most successful examples of this focus is our internship with Shake Shack in Downtown Brooklyn.

Five BAC students work at the restaurant an hour before it opens for four days a week and complete tasks that set up the employees for their work days. Dressed in their own Shake Shack shirts, they arrive to work and immediately set up their stations so they can complete various assignments. Their primary responsibility is to mark sandwich bags and cup lids with labels that read “contains nuts” or other ingredient and allergen information. If there’s time left in the day before they have to return to school, the students will also refill utensils and napkins in the main area of the restaurant.

The internship with Shake Shack is a mutually beneficial relationship; our students who work there (Dylan, Ian, Isabella, Peter, and T) learn and practice valuable vocational skills like cleaning, organizing, replenishing supplies, interacting socially with co-workers, and asking for help from employers – all skills that they can apply in any future employment opportunities. In turn, Shake Shack employees receive assistance with their daily tasks and help with their prep work.

BAC’s relationship with Shake Shack has expanded greatly since it first began in 2015, when Executive Director Jana Levin reached out to the Downtown Brooklyn location with an idea for a cross-promotional opportunity for Autism Awareness Month. Soon, the limited edition Blueberry Streusel shake was born, with $2 from each shake sold going directly to BAC. Months later, home-office manager Abigail Knoff contacted Jana and suggested that the school become the Downtown Brooklyn location’s charitable partner.

In addition to fundraising and marketing partnership opportunities, Shake Shack looks for volunteer opportunities and deeper involvement with non-profit organizations – “Stand for Something Good” being the corporate motto. This is an incredible program that we were honored to be considered for. After extensive discussion with Educational Director Julie Russell and BAC’s team of clinical supervisors, the two organizations developed the internship program for three of our students – and after the success of the first few months, three quickly turned into five.

After a short time of our students working there, it has become apparent that the staff at the Downtown Brooklyn location is going above and beyond the laudable corporate goal. All of the managers from Shake Shack have visited the school to learn about autism, meet our students, and see for themselves the unique work we do. Throughout our time working with them, they’ve shown a sustained investment in giving our students a meaningful experience.

“They’re very accommodating to our students’ needs and eager to create as much opportunity as possible for them,” says Julie. “They’re also very open to suggestions on how to improve the experience. When Ian mastered his targets, they gave us a whole list of suggestions about other tasks he could complete. Now, he’s helping stock supplies all around the store.”

The ultimate goal of the internship program at Shake Shack is to give our students one of many different types of work experiences so that they can apply to different types of jobs when they get older – though they might have already inspired a love of restaurant work in one of our students. Peter is already talking about aspirations of becoming a fry cook.

Shake Shack has also contributed to a positive atmosphere for the staff and extended BAC community, delivering lunch to our instructors on Teacher Appreciation Day and providing ice cream in the park on family field day.

BAC is very grateful to Shake Shack for providing our students with such a positive introduction to the working world, showing an active interest in autism awareness and understanding, and contributing so much to our school and our community. We look forward to a continued mutually beneficial relationship with their organization and staff, working together to make the world a better place for people with autism.