On the Job: COWamongus partners with Burkhart Transition Academy
On any given day during the lunch hour, you may notice a couple of new faces around COWamongus. The restaurant, located inside Texas Tech's Animal Science and Food Sciences building, recently hired Tyler Hallman and Bethany Butler, two new staff members with strong ties to the university's Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research.
One of the center's prime missions is to increase the quality of life for individuals with autism. As a result, the center sometimes sends its participants to work at various places across campus to increase social skills and become more familiar with a work environment.
COWamongus provides a valuable avenue for individuals to gain experience, and Department of Animal and Food Sciences Chairman Michael Orth said the partnership with the center aligns with the department's vision to empower young people.
"We strive to develop students, to help them with leadership skills, interpersonal skills, and obviously intellectual skills," Orth said. "We want to produce students here that serve and it is no different with those two individuals. We're helping them prepare to go out to serve, to empower them so they can work and take care of themselves as best they can. Tyler and Bethany are not only doing a great job but they are a joy to have on our staff."
Janice Magness, the director of the Burkhart Transition Academy, said the experience has benefitted Hallman and Butler in more ways than one. She said she thinks this is a great partnership that aids students from the Burkhart center to reach their upmost potential.
"The goal is to get these kids up and employed, independent and taking care of themselves," Magness said.
She went on to say the experience Hallman and Butler are receiving at COWamongus is doing just that. They are getting hands-on experience with a real job and Magness said that is a big step in the right direction.
As employees at COWamongus, there are requirements all staff members are expected to meet. Hallman and Butler are no exception, said Adrian Rodriguez, the manager of COWamongus. He said they have been a great addition to the staff and he hopes to only see the program flourish.
"We're doing this because it will benefit them," Rodriguez said. "I want them to understand they're part of this department and be passionate about what they have done here."
Hallman, a native of Sweetwater, said working with Rodriguez has been very beneficial in a multitude of ways. He said although he is not an official Tech student yet, working on campus has given him the opportunity to experience Tech in a new way he has not before and he has grown individually throughout his time at COWamongus.
"Gaining the social skills of course has been good," Hallman said, "Just being close to campus and learning my way around it more has helped a lot, too."
Butler of Olney said she has ties to the department because her uncle, who is an alumni in animal science. When the opportunity first became available to her, she said he could not wait to take advantage of it.
"It has been a really good experience for me," Butler said, "I think we are both benefitting because we are learning new skills each day."
Hallman and Butler both have high aspirations for their future and said this experience has paved the road for success. Both agreed the social skills, work experience and friends they've made are priceless, and they're optimistic about their future with the opportunities given to them through the center and COWamongus.
COWamongus! was created in 2005 with the support of Tech alumnus Daniel Brackeen, owner of Heritage Family Specialty Foods and creator of the TCBY yogurt chains. Besides serving breakfast burritos and lunch, it offers a variety of flavors of homemade ice cream. There's also a retail store where customers can buy sauces, seasonings and Raider Red Meats.
Written by Kayla Wilkins
CONTACT: Michael Orth, Chair and Professor, Department of Animal and Food Sciences, Texas Tech University at (806) 834-5653 or firstname.lastname@example.org
1119NM15 / For more information on the Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research, click https://www.depts.ttu.edu/burkhartcenter/
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