The Makes Sense Shop, located in the business district of the Village of Pulaski, is an interesting mix of life-skills teaching and job-training program for students with special needs. The students are central to running a combined gift shop, café and used book store.
This program has grown to become a student training center and trusted exponent for students to learn independence and practical job skills. Attending from Altmar-Parish-Williamstown, Sandy Creek, and Pulaski Central School District, students check into work at the Makes Sense Shop and are involved in every aspect of the business: cooking and serving light meals, or making items for sale in the gift shop production area stocking shelves, running the cash register learning bank transactions, and cleaning up at the end of the day.
When students had an opportunity to attend Maine’s Food Service show at Turning Stone Event Center, they returned to work ready to tackle trendy menu items and tasks as involved as understanding demand and managing the price of the meals. When student’s needed to produce more gift shop items, their teachers sought a $3,000 grant from the Pulaski Fund to purchase two Janome sewing machines with hand and foot controls to help the students keep up with gift shop demands for corn bags and snuggle loop baby blankets.
“Often we say we are ‘Pulaski Proud,’ not only of our school district, but the people who believe in our program,” said Rosemary Felio.
The program has received tremendous support from residents as well as from all the school districts involved. Approximately 14 businesses in Pulaski and Mexico host Makes Sense interns.
“We’re real proud of them and have a few that are out in the community now that are employed. The best thing is the education they provide the community. It’s a learning experience for the members of the community. They come in here and see them operate on a daily basis and it opens their eyes,” said David Mahaffey, one of the Makes Sense teachers.
As a program operated by several school districts, the Make Sense shop is an example of collaboration in partnership with their community and with other businesses.