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Aurora Public Schools program, nonprofit store helps Colorado students with special needs prepare for jobs

Aurora Public Schools nonprofit store helps students with special needs prepare for jobs
Aurora Public Schools nonprofit store helps students with special needs prepare for jobs 02:35

Buttons, booklets and tasty treats. At the newly opened Crossroads Trading Post in Aurora, you're bound to find something wonderful to enjoy.


"We have a coffee shop, we have a smoothie shop, we have merchandise that we sell," said Alison Merritt, a paraeducator at the Crossroads Transition Center, "and it's all done by students."

Students like Fabian Barrios Martinez who helps stock the store shelves and makes some of the merchandise.

"I make buttons and use the laminator," he said.

Martinez is non-verbal so he uses assistive tech to talk. The big smile stretched across his face really says it all, though.

"I like hot chocolate," he told CBS News Colorado's Kelly Werthmann when asked what he considers his favorite item at The Trading Post.

He clearly enjoys what he works on and learns each day at Crossroads. From hand-making colorful buttons to engaging with classmates and customers, they are all important skills to prepare him for a job one day.


"He's learning three-step directions, which is applicable to any job," Merritt said. "He's also learning to tell people what he needs to be successful. Just because something doesn't look the same, doesn't mean that they're not capable. They may need an accommodation, they may need something extra, but it doesn't mean that they're not capable of doing the job."

That's precisely the purpose of the Aurora Public Schools Crossroads Transition Center. It offers a continuum of services for special needs students aged 18-21 to attain post-high school education, employment training and independent living goals. Each student receives individualized assessments and services to identify the skills they need to prepare for life after school.

"It's like three years of intense training," described Merritt. "They learn how to have confidence in themselves when they go to a job site."

And now, since opening in mid-March, students can apply what they've learned in the program at their non-profit student-run store.

"What they learn here can be transferable to any other job they seek," Merritt said. "I think it's really important to know that there is a community that we have not accessed for the job force. We have students who are available and ready to work. They are available and ready to be productive members of our community."

The Crossroads Trading Post in Aurora CBS

Several students who've completed the program and some who are still enrolled already have jobs in their communities, like at local grocery stores.

"Some of these students didn't know that getting a job was possible… when they leave here, the whole world has opened up," said Merritt.

A world Martinez can't wait to work in one day soon.

"I want a job," he said. "I practice having a job at Crossroads."

To learn more about Crossroads as well as The Trading Post, visit:

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