The California State Legislature recognized Pomona College Dining Services for providing specialized training and independent living skills for workers with disabilities. The recognition ceremony took place Sept. 3 at the Red Hill Country Club in Rancho Cucamonga.
According to Dining Services General Manager Glenn Graziano, the award was given out to several employers that “go above and beyond at making opportunities available for Californians with disabilities.”
Pomona has been working to provide opportunities for workers with disabilities for almost a decade now.
“When we went self-operating … we made the decision that this was definitely something we want to support,” Graziano said.
Pomona works with OPARC, a nonprofit organization based in the Inland Empire that helps Californians with disabilities find work opportunities. OPARC facilitates the hiring process and provides job coaches to accommodate workers’ disabilities.
As part of OPARC’s Supported Employment Program, four workers with disabilities, along with their job coach, work in Pomona’s dining halls each shift.
OPARC Supported Employment Program Manager Claude Foster said that the goal of the program is “to provide vocational skills training to our clients in an ongoing effort to promote professionalism and responsibility, as well as the effective and appropriate handling of the everyday ups and downs in a typical work environment.”
“It’s been a great partnership for both of us,” Graziano said. “They’ve had a place to bring individuals for work experience, and we’ve been able to utilize their services. They’re great employees.”
David Alvarado, who has been working as an OPARC job coach for about a month, works with four disabled employees in the dish room at Frary Dining Hall.
“They’re probably better at it than I am,” he said. “They teach me stuff.”
He said that he drives the employees to and from work, keeps a chart of their hours, works with their case managers, and supervises them while they are working. He said that there are no special accommodations in the dish room.
“Everything is as is,” he said. “The whole point is to integrate them, because they’re very capable of working alongside us … The only thing that they have extra is me.”
Cassie Salas, a cashier at Frary Dining Hall, said, “Everybody knows them; they know all of us … They’re very friendly.”
Foster said that Pomona “greatly deserved” the award.
“OPARC and organizations like us truly appreciate when a company is able to see the ability in our guys over the disability,” Foster said. “We strive to educate the community every day in the work that we do, showing that with a little bit of support or a piece of adaptive equipment, our guys are capable of anything. So when organizations like the Claremont Colleges and our other partners link up with us, they too are educating the community in support of our mission.”