University of Mary Washington dining team mentors high school interns

The university was given an Employer of the Year award for its work with Start on Success, a program that aims to support high schoolers with disabilities.
Nate Hessing
Intern Nate Hessing in the kitchen. / Photo courtesy of University of Mary Washington

Last school year, the University of Mary Washington's dining team brought on two high-school interns through Start on Success (SOS), a program from the National Organization on Disability that aims to support at-risk students.

The interns, Caleb Davis and Nate Hessing, were seniors at nearby James Monroe High School on an individualized education program (IEP). Like other SOS participants, they were enrolled in a course on career and technical education and spent fifteen hours a week at a paid internship for a duration of 16 weeks.

During their internships, the Sodexo-run dining team established opportunities to mentor both students in areas like marketing and foodservice operations.

In addition, James Madison Special Education Job Coach Angela Poteet met regularly with leaders on the dining team to get a sense of the interns’ progress as well as their challenges.

“After working with Caleb and Nate for a couple of weeks, our internship team leaders identified their skill sets and job preferences,” said David Schneider, a general manager with Sodexo, in a news release. “For instance, Caleb excelled at organizational tasks, and so he worked with our receiver checking in and storing product shipments and assisting with weekly inventories.”    

In March, the University of Mary Washington was given an Employer of the Year award by the Virginia Division on Career Development and Transition for its work with SOS. (Seven SOS interns were placed in departments at the school in 2022-23, including the two in foodservice.)

The program’s participants have a postsecondary education or employment rate three times higher than students with disabilities overall, according to the release.



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