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Detroit Wing Company, Rising Stars Academy provide job opportunities for young adults receiving special education

Detroit Wing Company, Rising Stars Academy provide job opportunities to adults with disabilties
Detroit Wing Company, Rising Stars Academy provide job opportunities to adults with disabilties 04:21

ROSEVILLE, Mich. (CBS DETROIT) - In December 2023, Detroit Wing Company gifted its Roseville location to Rising Stars Academy, a school for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Rising Stars Academy's mission is to provide a place of inclusivity and help develop various workplace skills for ages 18 to 26. The students work alongside DWC staff for hands-on learning and social experience to be able to pursue the careers they want. The academy employs students in dozens of job site opportunities with businesses across Metro Detroit.  

Detroit Wing Company founder Gus Malliaras learned about the institution from another local business owner who partners with the school. 

Malliaras says a few years after establishing DWC, one of his goals was to be involved in charity and the community, and he wanted to establish a charity-driven location like the one in Roseville.

"Rising Stars has been operating it. The sales, everything they do here benefits Rising Stars. It's staffed by Rising Stars students. It's just been really awesome to see the kids back there working and give them that purpose. Everything that comes with the purpose of that program has been really rewarding for us," Malliaras said.

Malliaras founded Detroit Wing Company in 2015 in Eastpointe after running a few restaurants since he was 22. It wasn't long after opening the Roseville location in 2022 when he met to the founders of Rising Star Academy, Debbie and Mark Prentiss.

Mark Prentiss said the school's approach to removing stigmas and overcoming barriers through education and job-site programs.

"It's just the coolest thing in the world when these kids are out there in front of somebody. Most times, our kids, or anybody that has a disability or maybe is not the most productive-minded, are always stuck behind the dishwasher. But that's not our mindset. Our mindset is to get them out, break apart those barriers and those mindsets so that they can compete and they can be productive citizens," he said.

Debbie Prentiss recalled when Rising Stars Academy first opened 12 years ago. The school only had 26 students and job sites were not arranged then. Today, the facility welcomes over 160 people daily and has about 90 partnerships and clients across Metro Detroit.

"Our motto in the school is that every student should have as many opportunities as they can, which is why when DWC came to us for this partnership, we said sure. We don't usually say no to any partnership because it gives exposure for our kids to be in jobs they want," Debbie Prentiss said.

The students worked diligently during a lunch rush, prepping food for the night crew ahead. One of the students, Joe Tancredi, said some of his favorite aspects of the job included brining, breading, and prepping the chicken.

"Everybody around here works really, really hard to make sure that everything is up to par. The blue raspberry lemonade is delicious. Everything around here is delicious. The garlic parm sauce is amazing. Everybody should come down here because, you know, it's an absolutely amazing place to work. And, you know, sometimes you get to see us, see what we do. It's an absolutely amazing place to be," Tancredi said.

Looking ahead, Malliaras said the Detroit Wing Company will continue to build the partnership with Rising Stars Academy. The program's benefits have impacted students like Tancredi, who said he's grateful for the job experience.

"You know, people with special needs don't really get usually get opportunities like this, and it's a tremendous experience," Tancredi said.

For more information on Rising Stars Academy and its programs, visit its website.

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