Special Needs Students Get a Leg up on Real World Job Training

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Tucked away in a small warehouse, Grinders is churning out premium peanut, cashew, and almond butter by the gallon full.

Jaime Foster, the company founder said, "Things are great we continue to grow and expand our business".

And on this day they have some special visitors. Foster greeted them at the door and said, "Hey J.J., how are you today?"

Actually they're not just visitors, they're honorary employees. Gina Rosales, Justin "J.J." James and Ja'karie Buckner are special education students at Chamblee High School.

Foster said, "OK Gina, so we're going to be labeling all of the jars today with the date."

Since 1988, the DeKalb County School District has partnered with local companies and non-profits to give special needs kids on the job, vocational training. This year 86 businesses and 223 students are participating. Georgia Grinders founder Jaime Foster joined the program a year ago.

"It seemed like a great fit, a great community outreach program," Foster told FOX 5’s Andi Larner.

So every Tuesday, for about two hours, J.J., Ja'karie, and Gina get down to business at the factory.

Andi Larner: "I hear you're very good at this job"
Gina: "Yes."

Larner: "What have you learned?"
Ja'Karie: "How to work here."

Not only just how to work, but also how to have fun doing it. Fun, because they turn up the music and dance on the job. And their personalities, said Foster, shone through.

"Gina, I refer to her as a big teddy bear. She loves hugs and a lot of praise and compliment,” said Foster.

Foster said Ja'Karie loves to work, but is also a jokester. And she called J.J. “brilliant”.

Larner: "Why do you like coming here?"

J.J.: "It just feels like a nice place to be at..."

Foster said it's been a great match and she added, "These kids are very inspiring, and I'm honored to have them join our business. They teach us so much about the real world and having a positive attitude and at the end of the day, that's truly what counts, and anything's possible if you set your mind to it."

Click for more on DeKalb Community-Based Vocational Training, Transitional Special Education in DeKalb County, and Georgia Grinders.