In compliance with the State of Illinois’ food handling regulations, Gateway set about to train all participants in the guidelines in proper food handling for certification. Participants train and work in the kitchens and in Dorothy’s Can-Do Cafe. For the majority of food companies, stores, and restaurants, the certification process is a no brainer for its employees to complete. For Gateway participants, it’s a different story and a story worth telling.
Let’s begin at the end of the story. While this newsletter is going to print, 19 participants and one former GLT participant, Derrick, who now has a part-time job in the dishwashing room, await the results of their test scores. Three participants, William, Colleen, and Lee have already earned their food handling certification. What took place to secure this achievement was nothing less than a communal effort on the part of GTL instructor Aldona Falkiewicz, the participants, and on everyone’s commitment to succeed.
Just how did they do it when many participants can’t read or may have a limited vocabulary? The answer is in the learning methodology created by Aldona with support from Program Director, Donna Potyrala-Zajac. Pictures and small group discussion wherever feasible appeared to be the right combination to engage participants in their learning. Aldona also talked about each guideline as it applied to the participant’s real-life food handling situations. To take the test, she would read the question, and then the participants in their small group would decide on the correct multiple choice answer. The first training session took place in August and September, a record time for everyone to complete it.
When asked what impressed Aldona most about the participants in this learning event, she didn’t have to think twice. She quickly noted that it was the participants’ ability to sit patiently for two hours at a stretch to learn the material. The training was a five-hour program. No one wanted to leave the room or get up to walk around. Aldona saw that the participants were enjoying their time to learn something new. This experience speaks volumes about people with intellectual disabilities. The desire to learn, to be in the game of life, and to connect with others does not discriminate. It only invites them to live in their greatness.
Gateway is proud of its participants who can perform their food handling responsibilities with the best of them. The participants realize the importance of their responsibilities, and that’s one step closer to self-confidence and personal fulfillment.