Students in Olentangy High School's Specialized Learning Center are getting the chance to learn job skills in a program that has them operating a "bistro" from their classroom kitchen.
Intervention specialists Kelly Gallmeyer and Brock Walden lead Braves Bistro from Gallmeyer's classroom at the high school.
For one day every other month, Gallmeyer and Walden's students open Braves Bistro to sell prepared food to parents, staff and peers known as Braves Buddies.
Gallmeyer said the program is meant to teach job skills to the students, especially those who might not head to college after they graduate from high school.
"A lot of our students aren't on the college track," Walden said, "so we're trying to prepare them for a career or job. A lot of this helps train them for that."
Within the context of Braves Bistro, teachers serve as bosses like they would at a job. Students can be "fired" for a period of time due to poor performance, and building stamina and discipline is a key portion of the program.
Sophomore Grant Tomsic said he's learned the importance of not using a phone while working, and said he enjoys serving his teachers at the bistro.
"I think it will help me with a job later and help me have skills I need for a job," he said.
Gallmeyer said one of her former students now works at a nearby pizza restaurant, thanks in part to the skills learned at Braves Bistro. She said others simply have been given the confidence and experience they need to take a next step toward a job.
"We're building independence and employment skills," she said.
Along the way, students will learn to shred papers, fill drinks, prepare food and even help with a local Meals on Wheels program.
For Gallmeyer and Walden, the program is as rewarding as any part of their job.
"To see them from their freshman to senior years or even from the first Braves Bistro to the second, the difference in their work and skills they've learned is amazing," she said.
"They go from not really knowing what to do or being comfortable to being really excited."
Gallmeyer said feedback has been "wonderful" from staff and parents and said she'd like to see the program evolve.
"We hope to continue to grow the program and add as much real-life employability skills into Braves Bistro as possible," she said. "We would love to have an updated cash register so students could work on those skills more. We would also love to pair up with a chef or restaurant that could help reinforce the skills they look for as business owners."