A newly-opened Quiznos sandwich shop on Texas Tech's campus will provide more than just food: it will provide valuable work experience to young adults on the autism spectrum.
The corporation partnered with the College of Education's Burkhart Center for Autism Education & Research to bring the shop to the campus. The school's Hospitality Services staffers will manage the restaurant, but most of the line employees will be Burkhart students, all of whom fall somewhere on the autism spectrum.
After Janice Magness, the director of the Burkhart Center’s Transition Academy, approached Hospitality Services to build a coffee shop in the new building — which would give students a place to work where faculty could be close by and help as needed — the idea expanded.
Hospitality Services managing director Kirk Rodriguez wanted to provide something more expansive than a coffee shop, since it would only provide very limited work experience. He then reached out to Quiznos, which already has a store on campus, and the corporate leadership liked the concept as well.
“This new Quiznos demonstrates the continued partnership and a commitment to education between Hospitality Services and the Burkhart Center,” Rodriguez said. “This outlet will not only serve the campus community, but will also provide individuals with autism the needed skills to better themselves in a real-world working environment.”
The restaurant is the latest addition to the Burkhart Center’s building, which opened in November 2013 and is filled with classrooms, offices, a gym, a model apartment and observation rooms. For seven hours each day, the building is home to young adults who have autism spectrum disorder.
The Burkhart Center was established in 2005 and is named for Jim and Jere Lynn Burkhart, who have made significant contributions to the establishment and mission of the center. The Transition Academy, the center’s flagship program, is for 18- to 30-year-olds who have graduated from high school. Students learn job, life and social skills, with the goal of learning to live and work independently.