NORTH HILLS, Calif. –  New Horizons, Albertsons/Vons grocery stores, and the CA Department of Rehabilitation have been partnering on a new program called Go Grocery.

It's a 10-week program that helps clients with special needs (ages 16-22) learn the skills required to work in the grocery and retail industries. 

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Trevor Harris is the Go Grocery Training Manager at New Horizons where a mock-up grocery store is used as a training classroom. 

“Basically, we wanted to recreate the mini-mart or grocery store in a way that would familiarize our clients with the day-to-day operations, give them some hands-on training,” explained Harris. “It all serves to help them with all those different types of activities that they'd be doing on the job.” 

Student clients learn operational skills like bagging, stocking and cleanup, but also learn soft skills which help them develop confidence in the workplace and positive relationships with co-workers and customers.

“We are introducing them to a lot of the different types of jobs that exist within a market so that once they do get it, they have an idea of what's open to them,” said Harris.

Once the classroom training is complete, the students move on to the real thing with the support of in-store coaches and their new co-workers. 

Yesenia Hernandez went through New Horizons program and says working at Vons has given her more than just grocery store skills.

“Actually, I was a very shy person and then with New Horizons I actually got out of my shell,” explained Hernandez. “I’m more talkative and out there now.” 

Hernandez says she loves working in the store except for maybe one thing. 

“Sweeping! I don’t like sweeping,” she said with a laugh. “But I really like it here. I actually enjoy working in the store.”

Vons store director Danny Almada says he has no concerns about the abilities of his New Horizon employees. 

“Oh, they're wonderful,” said Almada. “They're like any other associate. Well in-tune. Very customer service-oriented, you know what, it's a pleasure having them. I'm pretty lucky.”

Added Harris, “Like anyone else, it's up to them what they apply for, what jobs are open. As many hours as they'd like to work, we're going to advocate for that.”

And Harris reminds us that New Horizons’ focus is on their clients abilities, not their disabilities.

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