School House Granola, an exciting new enterprise with the Shelby County School’s School-to-Work Transition Program, was recently recognized with a Best Practices Innovation award from the Alabama Association for Persons in Supported Employment (AL-ASPE).
School House Granola is a project where Shelby County students participating in the School-to-Work transition program are making a handmade fruit and nut granola blend and selling it to local businesses. It launched last year thanks to a $38,000 grant from the Alabama Council on Developmental Disabilities, which helped to fund the startup costs associated with purchasing the necessary equipment, use of school kitchen facilities, and consulting fees. The grant has since been refunded for an additional $38,000 to assist with production and marketing/branding efforts. The Shelby County Schools Education Foundation is managing and administering the grant funding from ACDD for the project.
“We wanted to create something that would allow for the students to have an ultimate, student-run work experience that potentially could become a self-sustaining business,” said Laura Partain, who along wth Carrie Radice serve as work instructors for the transition program.
Shelby County School’s School-To-Work Transition Program allows students to participate in various non-paid work experiences. The students learn business/employer expectations, as well as obtain the skills necessary to become independent, productive citizens. Students involved in the School House Granola project include those with developmental disabilities and others who are on track to earn an Essentials Pathway high school diploma, which requires community-based instruction as a graduation requirement.
Originally, the School House Granola project was housed at the Career Technical Education Center, where it operated out of the CTEC culinary instructional learning lab. However, it has since moved to the Linda Nolen Learning Center (LNLC).
Chef Sean Butler, executive chef at the former Revolve Kitchen & Brew Restaurant, serves as the project’s consultant. Butler also provided his Austrian grandmother’s recipe for the granola, which he formerly marketed and sold under a different name.
Butler was familiar with the district’s School-to-Work transition program from providing non-paid work instruction to students in the past, including students who helped label and bag his previous granola product. After giving the rights to the recipe to School House Granola, Butler now supervises the students on the production of the granola. He is assisted by the LNLC Child Nutrition Program (CNP) manager, Barbara Majors, in helping teach the students not only how to prepare and bake the tasty treat, but also on restaurant industry standards for cleanliness and quality control. The project will benefit from a new partnership this fall with Jefferson State Community College’s Culinary Program, who will be sending their students to help mentor the younger high school students.
Students from all seven Shelby County high schools have been actively involved in the project since the beginning, including planning and marketing efforts that included naming the project “School House Granola” and deciding on a logo. They are continuing to learn about marketing and sales through the distribution of the product to local businesses.
Currently, School House Granola is sold to three stores in the area. Celeste Heavenly Boutique at Lee Branch on Highway 280 and Baba Java at Chase Lake on Highway 31 sell the eight-ounce packaged bags. Innova Coffee at the Colonnade buys the product in bulk quantities to use as granola crumble on their yogurt parfait.
Proceeds from the sale of the granola go directly back into the program, helping to create sustainability for the project. For students who assisted with the production of the granola this summer, the proceeds also helped to provide paid employment opportunities for them.
Click here for more information on the School House Granola Project.