CLEVELAND — A school store in northeast Ohio is doing more than selling mascot merchandise.
The Derby store at Strongsville High School is operated by students with special needs on individualized education plans.
This is where Caiden Hudson has learned the art of shirt folding.
“You have to place the shirts upside down and you try to fold it a little,” he said while using a plastic folding tool.
The freshman said there’s been a lot of traffic since the start of the school year.
“People have been coming and we’ve been getting a lot of money,” he said.
Customers like Heidi Tvorik, study hall monitor for Strongsville High School, have become regulars.
“I’m going to be a Mustang every day,” she said. “I hope this never goes away. I really do. I think this is a fantastic opportunity.”
Derby allows students with special needs to learn some real-world skills in a safe setting.
“It’s important for these guys to learn some skills that can take them past school and help them to transition into independence,” said Jason Frederick, a Strongsville High School intervention specialist.
Frederick teaches the students job skills in the classroom and then lets them put the skills to work by manning the store.
“It’s amazing to see the smiles on their faces,” he said. “Even when the typical peers come in and they’re purchasing. And I see students and staff wearing some of our products in the school. It’s pretty special.”
Sophomore Rocco DeStefano agreed.
“I feel excited when I see people wearing the shirts from the Derby,” he said.
Rocco has been working at the store since it opened last year.
He checks the store’s inventory before opening each of his shifts but his favorite part is ringing up the sales.
“It felt like my life had a purpose,” he said.
The sales from Derby purchases go toward buying more products for the shop and help support transitional programs at the school.
The store is open during lunch periods but Frederick said there are plans to expand to an online storefront and sales at events like football games.
Right now the store only accepts cash or checks.