After months of planning, The Guild’s vocational services department was excited to open The Guild School Store at the end of February. The store, which carries snack items, school supplies, crafts, toys, and more, is located in the administrative wing of the school campus.

Elise Fair, Vocational Training Teacher with The Guild, led efforts to design and create the store. She says that it will provide a structured environment for students to practice appropriate shopping and purchasing behaviors that they can use in the community.

“A lot of times, when we’re out in the community, it’s hectic, and we can’t go through the process of buying something step-by-step,” said Elise. “The School Store will allow students to take their time making purchases and practice the skills needed to be successful in the community.”

From set-up to break-down, the store is entirely student-run. Students can work paid shifts at the store daily to develop their employment-based skills. Until now, the primary site of employment for Guild School students has been the student-run Coffee Shop. Elise says the School Store can employ even more students than the Coffee Shop, given the broad, flexible range of skillsets required.

“We wanted to create more opportunities and increase accessibility for students to develop and hone their employment skills in a real work environment,” said Elise.

The Guild’s Vocational Services department understands that people with disabilities are significantly underrepresented in the workforce and face unique challenges in gaining employment. Those who receive job development and placement training from a young age have greater success securing lasting jobs. Vocational services staff members accordingly work with each student to identify their career interests and develop their personalized employment-based goals.

Shawn Massak, Employee Services Manager with The Guild, says that the store allows students to practice a wide range of skills applicable to a post-graduation work environment. “The students working in the store gain experience in stocking and pricing items, maintaining inventory, operating a point-of-sale system, giving change, and practicing customer services scenarios,” he said. “I see the store as a way for students to build skills necessary for community-based opportunities while having a meaningful job on-site.”

As for students, they’re thrilled about having the opportunity to work and shop at the new School Store.

“I like working there,” said one Guild student. When asked about his favorite item that he’s bought so far, he enthusiastically replied, “A fake pink phone!”

Looking ahead, Elise says she’d love to sell Guild apparel and merchandise. She’d also like to support students in ordering items online at the store. For now, she’s focused on keeping current items in stock.

“So far, Gatorade is the students’ favorite item to purchase!” she said.