The Help Group’s Bridgeport Vocational Education Center recently launched the grand reopening of Lulu’s – a student-run store on the Sherman Oaks Campus. Lulu’s offers a variety of breakfast and lunch items for purchase, as well as gift items such as greeting cards and fashionable accessories. Open every weekday from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., the store has quickly become a popular destination for Help Group staff, parents, and students. The bright colors and clean lines of the shop along with the smells of coffee and freshly-made popcorn lure in first-time visitors. The menu features a variety of sweet treats, salty snacks, salads, and panini sandwiches, as well as gluten-free and sugar-free options.

Help Group Chief Operating Officer Susan Berman shared the impetus behind the re-launch of Lulu’s, “Our transition-age students on our Culver City Campus have gained valuable work experience in all facets of the retail industry at Silverlining Designer Resale Boutique and Student Training Center since its opening in 2011. At the same time, their self-confidence has grown as they develop the life skills tools they need to secure employment and increase their level of independence. We wanted to create the same opportunities for our students at the Bridgeport Vocational Education Center on our Van Nuys campus.” 

Bridgeport Voc. Ed. Center is a unique learning environment for young adults with special needs ages 18 to 22 where they can develop and master the critical skills necessary for a successful transition from school to adult independence. The one-of-a-kind program offers a structured curriculum that embeds core academics within community-based instruction and vocational education, which includes on-the-job training at on-campus businesses like Lulu’s, as well as at various community businesses.

Bridgeport students are involved in every aspect of planning and running Lulu’s – from inventory management, shopping, preparing salads, baking cookies, assisting customers, filling orders, and handling payments. Bridgeport Voc. Ed Center Assistant Principal Andi Ambartsumyan noted that Lulu’s provides opportunities for students to learn and master a wide range of life skills, including safety in the kitchen, going to the market, budgeting, and working under pressure in a fast-paced environment.

Bridgeport student Zack shared, “I love working at Lulu’s. It’s fun helping the customers.” Student Nina added, “I like working behind the counter taking orders, and I’ve met so many nice people.”

Lulu’s is named for former Bridgeport student Lulu Calderon, who passed away several years ago. Lulu’s charming personality and loving spirit are still greatly missed by all who knew her.

“We are so proud of our Bridgeport Voc. Ed. Center students for their efforts to make Lulu’s the successful, thriving business it has become, and we encourage all visitors to The Help Group’s Sherman Oaks Campus to stop by and support our students,” said Pamela Clark, Director of Autism Schools.

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