by Sandra Stokley, The Press-Enterprise/TNS
RIVERSIDE, Calif. – For 20-year-old Jasmin Vega, folding shirts and stacking them on a shelf appeals to her innate sense of order.
“I get them and they are all in a jumble,” Vega said. “I enjoy making them neat.”
Vega is one of the special education students learning real-world retail skills in a mock CVS store at the Riverside Unified School District’s Adult School campus.
The store – the only mock CVS on the West Coast – is a replica of a neighborhood CVS, complete with a front counter and cash register; magazine rack; shopping carts; shelves stocked with toothpaste, toilet paper and other household items; circular clothing racks; and a red neon “Open” sign in the front window. Its grand opening was Jan. 28.
The store serves as a laboratory to teach retail skills to the 52 students enrolled in the Riverside district’s Project T.E.A.M., said Constance Wahlin, project specialist/site administrator.
T.E.A.M, which stands for Transitional Education Adjustment Model, offers job training for students with developmental disabilities ages 19-22. The program then works with the Inland Regional Center to find the students jobs, Wahlin said.
While on duty at the mock store, students learn the basics of stocking shelves, pricing products, operating a cash register, bagging items and how to display items in an appealing way.
They are evaluated periodically on such skills and others such as hanging shirts, displaying hanging and folded shirts and making change.
This spring, middle and high school students with developmental disabilities can work in the store as part of their life skills class, Wahlin said.
The mock store resulted from a close working relationship between Wahlin’s staff and Rebecca Martinez, CVS Health’s enterprise disability consultant.
Martinez said that although all school district employees are committed to their students with disabilities, “Riverside Unified has a very special team working with disabled students.”
“They have an extraordinary commitment,” Martinez said by phone from her Long Beach office. “I knew they were the ideal team to put this project together.”
CVS Health donated shelves and fixtures, products and money to get the project going. Anthony Collier, CVS Health district manager for Riverside County, offered guidance, Martinez said.
A Riverside Educational Enrichment Foundation grant paid for shopping carts, office supplies and the front counter. The school district provided the portable building that houses the store and the cash register.