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On the first day of classes for the #starbucks Retail Inclusion Academy, Pepe Dent was feeling so apprehensive that he texted his mother, telling her, “I don’t think I can do this.”
“I’m just anxious about meeting people,” said Dent, who has Asperger’s and ADHD. “I’m very anxious in a setting like that, especially in an area where I was with a whole bunch of people I didn’t know.”
The 20-year-old Baltimore native was one of six enrollees in a program launched in April to provide retail training for individuals with disabilities. Planning for the academy began in 2016 when Jessica Hawes of the Maryland Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS) began pondering how successful on-the-job inclusion programs in warehousing and distribution at #starbucks facilities in Carson Valley, Nev., and York, Penn., could be adapted to the retail sector.
“When we have done research into the areas that are offering career growth, the retail and barista fields were rapidly expanding, and still are,” Hawes said. “I had this broader idea: How can we do this with other vocational rehabilitation agencies? If we create a good model, can’t other states use the same model?”
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