Before the lunch rush at California Pizza Kitchen in Manhattan Village, three students from the South Bay Adult School fold napkins, wash dishes and sweep the floor.
While the tasks might seem simple, for these students—who each have some form of intellectual disability—including autism and Down syndrome, contributing to a business such as a popular restaurant means the world.
The students aged 18 to 22 are enrolled in the South Bay Adult School’s transition to independent living program in conjunction with the Redondo and Manhattan Beach School Districts. The program is funded through a federal grant with the main purpose of helping special education students transition to independent living and working.
In large part, the program relies, however, on the kindness of general managers like Walter Hastey at CPK, who welcome the students into their businesses each week. Hastey said taking on these kids was part of a general practice of personal volunteerism, most of which he said he does through the Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation taking marine veterans surfing.
“I personally have a goal to donate a day a month of my time,” Hastey said. “I just thought it was a good idea as soon as I heard about it.”
It was during a field trip by the special needs students to see how the kitchen functioned when Hastey said he’d like to participate in the School-to-Career program. Other students in the class of 13 work at Burlington Coat Factory in Del Amo Mall, LAX Marriott and Sunflower Farms.
Each day begins at the school campus in North Redondo Beach. Then, it’s off to a…
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