Making A Difference: "Gathering Grounds" - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Making A Difference: "Gathering Grounds"

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BRANDON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

They call the coffee shop ‘Gathering Grounds.' It's in the old Lions Club building on the campus behind the Rankin County School Administration complex in Brandon.

And although it is a part of the student's school program, it is also a very real business open to the public.

And the public, well at least the people who have discovered it so far, seem to like it and have but one word for the coffee.

"Awesome! I do it every day," said Brenda Michael. "I don't even make it at home anymore. I just come here and buy my coffee."

It isn't a matter of making money. It is more a matter of making a difference in the kind lives these challenged students involved in the program will have after they graduate.

"The purpose of the coffee shop is to teach employment skills, social skills, so when they leave here, when they exit here, will be able to get competitive paid employment in the community and that is our goal," said Rankin County School System Transition Coordinator Julie Paradise.

Julie says many of these students, when they graduate school, will just go home and stay around the house for the rest of their lives. Some may find a job.

"It would be sheltered employment. And that's what we are trying to get away from," added Julie. "We believe that everybody can work and we believe that everybody needs to find where their unique talents lie."

These young people have goals and aspirations and talents. Trust Jones is a born politician. Jessie already has a job through the coffee shop in the Pine Lake Church's Mother's Day Out program. And Brandon Holliday wants to be a baker someday.

"I can bake brownies, cakes, cookies and cupcakes," said Brandon.

"Everybody in this shop has a unique personality and something to give," said Julie.

Right now what Gathering Grounds needs most are more customers.

"For them to social interact with and to do their job correctly they need the customers," said transition teacher Jane Smith.

And although the program is just a few months old, it is already producing the desired results, getting these young people out into the world and into life when they leave school.

"We have five students that will be moving to paid employment," said Julie Paradise. "We do see that this is really Making A Difference."

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