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Students at Lavoy Exceptional Center bring hope to the hungry at Trinity Café.

Cooking up exceptional opportunities for students

April 11, 2016 - Partners in Education

Published by the Trinity Café Newsletter

Salads and hot pressed flatbread sandwiches taste a little better when you witness seven students working in concert to create these offerings with meticulous determination, concentration and enthusiasm in the cafe they run at LaVoy Exceptional Center.

Teacher John LoScalzo patiently leads and encourages self-sufficiency as part of the Hillsborough County School District's Graduates Moving about the Community (GMAC) program. Designed for special diploma graduates between the ages of 18 to 22, the program's students live with autism, physical handicaps, emotional and behavioral disabilities and significant cognitive disabilities. This school-based work program teaches these young adults a variety oflife management skills and prepares them for possible employment opportunities. Three days a week they run the LaVoy Lunch Express Cafe, taking orders, preparing made to order salads and sandwiches, organizing orders based on customer pick-up times and operating the cash register. Each week there is a new sandwich and salad special. On this day, Krystle Diez was assigned the task of "head chef" overseeing the day's operation.

Mr. LoScalzo gives each student an opportunity to become proficient at each task. The one thing all the students do together is display a big smile and say, "Thank you, come back and see us!" as each customer picks up their order. Helping Bring Hope to the Hungry When asked what he enjoys most about the cafe, student Steven Humphrey said, "I like to work hard and make salads that taste good. It's important to do a good job:' Trinity Cafe has partnered with the Hillsborough County School District this year to offer LaVoy students an opportunity to assist in its dining room. The students arrive each Tuesday eager to prepare the dining room for guests. They set tables, roll silverware, fill bread baskets and prepare beverages. They've also participated in cake decorating activities led by retired pastry chef and Trinity Cafe volunteer baker, Doug Wanek. Another helpful project involved students planting herbs for Trinity Cafe's greenhouse.

Teacher John LoScalzo said, "Trinity Cafe provides an accepting, energetic, and positive environment for my students to gain essential daily living and work skills in order to be successful in life. I want to thank the staff for their support and giving us the opportunity to volunteer at such a great place and for making a difference in the community!" "It is our hope that this partnership allows these students to gain skills, confidence and experience that will assist them as they transition from school to work life;' says program director Cindy Davis. She adds, "I had the pleasure of seeing the students in action at LaVoy Lunch Express Cafe. They made me an incredible chopped Italian salad that was not only delicious but also assembled with great passion and care! I am so impressed with what each student is accomplishing in their cafe!"

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