At The Y.A.L.E. School’s Audubon campus, teens are getting a “Whole” lot of community-based learning and hands-on vocational experience. Through a unique collaboration with Whole Foods Market in Marlton, students with autism get to experience what it is like to hold a job at a local supermarket.
“The managers at Whole Foods, Ashley Jackson and Jon Glyn, have been very supportive and are excited to work with our students,” said Emily Hughes, who coordinates the effort for Y.A.L.E. “It lets our students generalize the work readiness skills they learn in the classroom, into the community.”
Before students began working in the store, Whole Foods sent a liaison to Y.A.L.E. to review safety rules, go over bagging techniques, and give Y.A.L.E. staff and students a list of job responsibilities.
“Since the project began in September, the team at Whole Foods has worked closely with Y.A.L.E. students to give them the guidance needed to become an independent worker in the store,” added Hughes.
Each week, students follow a typical Whole Foods Cashier Assistant work routine: wearing a uniform, checking in, getting the tasks for the day, and problem-solving throughout their shift. Tasks include assisting cashiers with bagging patrons’ items, wiping and restocking the café area (utensils, napkins, cups, etc.), re-shelving returned items, and collecting carts in the parking lot.
“Staff and customers at Whole Foods have been very encouraging and helpful,” said Hughes. “It can be difficult to find tasks that are appropriate for all students in our class, but at Whole Foods, students of all levels have been welcomed and appreciated for the work they do within the store and during work hours.”