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Earthworks, JESSE partner for education

March 21, 2012

Senior Hannah Samuelson, volunteer Shirley Keeton, and junior Kelsey Fish make sugar cookies together Tuesday at Earthworks Market in Plymouth. The “Project Ready” program for JESSE students through Earthworks teaches the students job skills. The cookies the students made Tuesday will be sold to the public with proceeds benefitting Autism Resources of Marshall County.

PLYMOUTH — When area residents hear Earthworks, they immediately think of a variety of healthy, wholesome breads and other baked products.
However, according to Sister Sue Rogers who oversees much of the Earthworks activities, one of their basic purposes is education.
For many years, Earthworks baked their goods at night in their kitchen near the Ancilla College campus in Donaldson. A year ago, they renovated a former car dealership building on Jefferson Street in Plymouth complete with a professional kitchen for preparation and retail space to promote healthy foods and became the Earthworks Market.
Now, working with students from Plymouth, Oregon-Davis, and Argos High Schools, they have taken education into life skills for many challenged students. Every Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, several students spend their time learning how to bake breads and cookies, including all of the steps necessary to turn out a finished product.
Johnna Ramer, Vocational Transition Coordinator of Joint Educational Servicesin Special Education (JESSE) said, “Project READY is collaboration between Earthworks and JESSE volunteer work experience students. Every 12 weeks, four students with mild learning disabilities are provided with the opportunity to be involved in a community work site where they can learn workplace skills, social and teamwork skills, all while being involved in baking cookies and healthy breads.”
Sister Sue said she is very excited to be partnering with the Plymouth Schools and others.
She said, “These are perfect partnerships.”
According to Sister Sue, students completing the class are ready to work in the private sector where they can use their newly acquired baking skills.
Ramer said, “These job skills will enable these students to be more successful in future employment.”
But the story doesn’t end there. After collaborating with the Plymouth Schools even more, the breads being baked by the students will now be used in a pilot program at Menominee Elementary in their cafeteria offerings.
Plymouth Superintendent Daniel Tyree said, “Sister Sue came to my office with a proposal and I immediately knew it was a workable idea.”
He added, “She even brought me a loaf of bread, but I already knew how good their bakery items were since my wife buys from them all the time.”
The breads will become a part of the food program at Menominee as soon as the Director of Food Services, Gloria Burnham, completes the necessary calculations of proportions to fit into the state and federal food standards.

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