PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — A new cafe at Gulf Coast State College hopes to do more than just provide tasty treats.
Friday is the first day of National Disability Employment Awareness Month and the Arc of the Bay Executive Director Ron Sharpe said the best way to mark the occasion was with the grand opening of a disability-inclusive cafe.
“It is just another advancement of taking down the barriers, if you will, of our community embracing disability inclusion,” Sharpe said.
Sharpe has been working on the Empowerment Cafe plans with Gulf Coast State College for several months.
The non-profit provides support and opportunities to adults with disabilities.
“We have the wonderful opportunity to put 14 of our graduate students from our Culinary Institute to work, giving them the opportunity to earn a paycheck, giving them a chance to experience what it means to be a part of the workforce,” Sharpe said.
Employees at the Empowerment Cafe said they are thrilled with the opportunity to work and learn new skills.
“When I was in the culinary class, Chef Jacob taught me how to make cakes and also he taught me how to do more stuff and I’m very excited to be here because that’s one thing I’m good at,” said employee Cody Branch.
GCSC has not had a hot food cafeteria on campus in several years.
College Vice President Dr. Cheryl Flax-Hyman believes the cafe will fill a void, especially for students living in the FSU-PC student housing.
“We are really excited. As I mentioned this absolutely enriches our culture of diversity and inclusion and it enhances what we do on this campus and all the learning opportunities for our students as well as theirs,” Flax-Hyman said.
Last month, The Arc of the Bay opened the !nklusion coffee shop in the Advanced Technology Center.
There is now a second one in the student union.
Both coffee shops and the cafe are open to the public Monday through Friday from 7 am to 3 pm.