Getting to work
by Cassie Tomlin/ TP staff
Feb 20, 2010 | 2318 views | 5 5 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tracy Young Adult Program participant Andrew Gomes (left) works alongside Barista’s owner Hus Patel twice a week at the downtown Tracy coffee shop. Cassie Tomlin/Tracy Press
Tracy Young Adult Program participant Andrew Gomes (left) works alongside Barista’s owner Hus Patel twice a week at the downtown Tracy coffee shop. Cassie Tomlin/Tracy Press
Most mornings at Barista’s, a bustling downtown cafe, a line snakes around tables and workers rattle off regulars’ names.

Mondays and Wednesdays, two extra bodies help mix lattes and wash dishes, coached by the shop’s veteran coffee hounds.

Andrew Gomes beams as he hands off drinks and stocks sugar packets, and Jessica Rodrigues clears and cleans dishes like clockwork.

Because of autism, she doesn’t speak, and his cerebral palsy challenges him academically, but the two help Barista’s get through the busy morning rush, owner Hus Patel said.

Twice a week, Rodrigues and Gomes, along with district assistant Tanya Loayza, walk to Barista’s from Stein High School, where the pair attends the Tracy Young Adult Program for severely disabled people ages 18 through 22.

The two work three hours a week at Barista’s through the San Joaquin County special-education office.

Every year, about 800 special-education students between the ages of 12 and 22 get training at volunteer businesses to help them get hired at future jobs and learn independent living skills, said Margaret St. George of the county’s office of education.

The 14 students in Gina Berlin’s Tracy Young Adult Program this semester work at Best Buy, Party City, Hirsch Elementary School, Safeway and JCPenney. More than 30 Tracy businesses have hosted students in at least five years, Berlin said.

Patel said he was a bit skeptical when Loayza, a loyal customer, asked him to host the workers.

“It’s a really fast, morning-type job, and I wondered if they were capable,” he said.

But he was surprised how quickly the two picked up tasks and became part of the team.

“They’re very careful, and they listen,” he said. “And they’re actually excited to come to work. I’m happy for them.”

Gomes, a 2006 graduate of West High School, is in his last year of the class. Cecilia Trovao, his mother, said she hopes he can develop a career.

“He can do a lot of things, but he has to be prompted constantly,” she said.

Rodrigues’ mother, Laura Rodrigues, said her daughter will attend Stein three more years until she graduates and is left on her own.

“After that, how are we going to get her employed?” Rodrigues said. “(Autistic people) are at a disadvantage, especially if they’re as communicatively disabled as my daughter, who doesn’t really have a voice for herself.”

She said she hopes a business that works with the special-education office will eventually hire her daughter, because having a job gives the young woman a sense of pride and self-esteem.

“I can’t tell you how grateful we are as parents,” Rodrigues said.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
February 21, 2010
This is so wonderful, used to stop at Baristas on the way to Post Office, close to the place I rented in Tracy, miss their coffee! Tangles, too!

Baristas has already made a difference, to remind us of what humanity is all about. The joy of seeing their employees' sunny disposition is contagious!

Such a refreshing read!!

February 21, 2010
Recognize this;Yes even disabled can make a cup of coffee.

I have hired these folks before and, the part I like is the honesty.
February 20, 2010
This is the most uplifting article I've read in years. Thank you for publishing the story.
February 20, 2010
Wonderful! Barista's is awesome and has the best coffee in town! Thank You Hus, for allowing them to work. They need to break into the real world and this is an excellent start. I also have disabilities (which I detest), but I am in the real world and work right next to Barista's. People with disabilities are fortunate to have peopl like Hus Patel and Mike & Michele Coury (who I work for) around. I go there at least twice weekly and it is great starting the morning meeting close friends and having a nice dose of caffeine!
February 20, 2010
That's a great article. I hope this is part of the hiring Local, program that the City of Tracy has going.

Good work Baristas!!

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