The Winner’s Circle Café at Blue Cross Centre (BCC) serves more than meals to hungry employees: it serves special needs students from Omaha Public Schools (OPS).

Students from Burke High School and South High School in the OPS Work-Based Learning program come to the café with a paraprofessional several days a week during the school year to work alongside Mark Ellis, café general manager, and his team.

From helping in the dining room to putting away the dishes, students in the program complete a variety of tasks during a small part of the school day.

“It’s been fun watching the students grow and to see their excitement of knowing there are jobs out in the real-world for them,” Ellis said.

Spending time at a worksite in the community helps students develop an awareness of the working world, said Chris Korth, an OPS work-based learning teacher.

“The live opportunity for our students to learn is instrumental in developing workplace skills and social skills,” Korth said. “This is where our students learn these skills best.”

Cristina, a work-based learning student at BCC, enjoys working in the café because her coworkers are “so kind.”

“My best memory about my work is to do what I’m told to do,” Cristina said. “As my boss said, give your best shot.”

Sodexo, a food services and facilities management company, operates the café. The partnership between OPS and Sodexo at BCC began in 2017.

“OPS’ Work-Based Learning program is truly grateful for our partnership with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska and Sodexo,” Korth said. “The success of our programs starts with our partnerships.”

Ellis looks forward to continuing to work with students when classes resume in the fall.

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