The students of the Alvin Community College Skilled Training Rewarding Independence and Vocational Education (STRIVE) looked to make waves by making smoothies for staff members while also learning valuable skills for the workforce.
STRIVE students operated the Blue Waves Fruit and Smoothie Bar in the Student Center to learn more about food handling and customer service. The project was supported by the ACC Foundation.
“I feel like it helped me mature and try something new,” STRIVE student Zach Sazedj said. “It gave me confidence to be more independent even though I didn't have much experience with this prior.”
The STRIVE Program provides Vocational Training for adults with intellectual disabilities with an end goal of transitioning students into the workforce.
Program coordinator Mary Vlahovich said the Blue Wave operation helped the STRIVE students learn more about a business operation including food handling, marketing, development and communication.
“We learned food safety and proper food storage,” Vlahovich said. “Students also collaborated with the ACC marketing department to help with our smoothie bar logo and flyer design. Students learned to compose professional emails, respond in a timely manner and work with other departments. This gave the students communication skills practice while giving them a genuine sense of ownership to the project.”
The recipes for the smoothies included Fins Up, Mango Tango, Fruit Cup and, of course, the Blue Dolphin. Students developed the recipes with the Culinary Arts Department and Chef Laura Trigo.
“They trained us how to properly use the equipment in the kitchen,” Vlahovich said. “They also helped us develop delicious recipes that students could follow. Our research and development department researched what the current most popular smoothie flavors are. They looked up how to make smoothies ahead of time, freeze them and have them ready to serve.”
The Blue Waves operation was an important opportunity to learn a variety of skills for students looking for an opportunity to join the workforce.
“Students have learned a variety of skills,” Vlahovich said. “Some include money handling, using a cash register, measurement, customer service, conflict resolution, following a schedule, making an online grocery order, researching and purchasing supplies, writing professional emails, networking skills and many more. The bonus was that we had so much fun during the entire process. We really came together as a team.”
STRIVE student Ambika Hale said working with the smoothie shop helped her learn to work with customers and to be confident as an employee.
“I feel more comfortable on the cash register, I gained more teamwork skills, and now I know how to look up recipes to make all kinds of smoothies,” Hale said.
For student Ali Harirah, the Blue Waves Fruit and Smoothie Bar was another opportunity to visit with fellow students on campus.
“I like meeting new people on campus every day,” Harirah said.