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Local Starbucks Program Announces First High School Graduates in Country: Inclusion Academy Trains P

Lexington, SC – The Arc of the Midlands continues to bridge the unemployment gap for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) by partnering with Starbucks, S.C. Vocational Rehabilitation and Swansea High School for a another successful round of the Inclusion Academy. After five weeks of real-life training at the Sandy Run Roasting Plant in Gaston, the high school interns are ready to graduate to real-life jobs with their transferrable skills. The Swansea High interns -- Liam Dowd, Jamie Jones, Kaitlin Romero, Michelle Pacheco Rodriguez and Tyler Chambers – will be the first high school transition group in the country to graduate from the academy. Graduation is set for 2:15 p.m. May 26 at the roasting plant which caters to the entire Southeast region.

The Starbucks Inclusion Academy is an on-the-job training program teaching individuals with I/DD about meaningful work experience in manufacturing, warehousing and distribution roles. The eligible applicants are all independent young adults in high school with intellectual disabilities who strive to live and work independently in the community. During the first three weeks, they learn soft skills to prepare them for a successful job at a prosperous industry such as Starbucks. Soft skills learned include: life skills, social interactions, verbal and nonverbal communication tactics, networking and a slew of useful strategies to overlap throughout their years working.

The last two weeks are paid and they will be on the job working a full shift every day. They rotate between two departments learning all aspects of the roasting plant which provides Starbucks products to the entire Southeast region. After the internship is complete, candidates graduate and are entered into a selective pool of trained and qualified candidates eager to enter the working world.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who desire better opportunities. These guys are all enthusiastic, hard-working and grateful for the opportunities given to them,” said Thomas Harris, Job Coach with The Arc of the Midlands. “We are fortunate to work for a first-class business who seeks to change the unemployment rate for people with lifelong disabilities.”

The candidates look forward to increasing their ante and taking their skillset to the next level. This opportunity at the Starbucks Inclusion Academy allows them to gain lifelong skills desirable to employers desperately seeking talented employees. The academy is based on successful models implemented in Nevada and Pennsylvania.

“I am excited to work once again with our local Starbucks roasting plant while providing pathways of employment to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Melinda Moore, CEO of The Arc of the Midlands. “Collaborations in the community are vital to bridging the gaps of unemployment specifically with people with I/DD. I am incredible grateful for this opportunity offered by Starbucks.”

The next Inclusion Academy is slated for Fall 2017. For more information about the Starbucks Academy, contact The Arc of the Midlands at

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