'There's a Place for Them': Special Needs Students Run Tx. School's Eatery - NBC Southern California
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'There's a Place for Them': Special Needs Students Run Tx. School's Eatery

In just five short years, a very unique restaurant in Lewisville has gone from unknown to full-fledged lunchtime hot spot.

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    #SomethingGood: Special Needs Students Run Starfish Cafe

    In just five short years, a very unique restaurant in Lewisville has gone from unknown to full fledged lunchtime hot spot. And it's helping to change the lives of students with intellectual disabilities. (Published Friday, April 26, 2019)

    Anyone who's ever tried to run a restaurant can tell you it's not an easy thing.

    So when you look around a place and there's not an empty table in sight, you know you're really cookin'.

    Such is life at the Starfish Cafe in Lewisville, Texas.

    "It's the happiest place to come have lunch," said Mary Beth Buck, a regular at the Starfish Cafe and the mother of one of its servers.

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    What sets the restaurant apart -- besides its food -- is the staff that keeps the place moving. All servers, hosts, bussers and cooks are young adults with intellectual disabilities.

    "It's good," said Carla, a server at the cafe. "It's kind of fun."

    Starfish Cafe is part of Lewisville ISD's "Focus on the Future" program, which helps students with intellectual disabilities transition from high school into their adult lives.

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    They have their hands in every part of the restaurant -- buying the groceries, planning the menu, setting up the room, interacting with customers, cleaning -- picking up skills that can help them land paying jobs in the real world.

    "There is a place for them," said Karrie Barnes, the lead teacher for Focus on the Future. "And they can offer a lot."

    Buck's son Eiler is proof of that. When he's not busy serving customers at Starfish Cafe, he's earning a living at Firehouse Subs.

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    "He's just proud," Buck said.

    "He loves going to work," said Alex Buck, Eiler's father. "He loves interacting with other people. And he is extremely excited about taking those skills to where he can learn to live independently from us."

    Eiler is just one of many success stories to come from Starfish Cafe in the five years it's been open. And he won't be the last.

    "It shows that inclusion works," Barnes said. "You start seeing their skills, you see their personalities coming out and you see what they can contribute."

    The Starfish Cafe is open every other Friday during the school year from 11:30 a.m. CT to 1 p.m.CT.

    The final dates for the current school year are April 26 and May 10.

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    The restaurant is located inside the Purnell Support Center at 136 W. Purnell St. in Lewisville.

    Walk-ins are welcome, though they prefer customers make reservations in advance to help them with their planning. Reservations can be made by emailing starfishcreations@lisd.net.

    They ask that each person who comes to eat at the restaurant make a $7.50 donation, which helps fund their program.