Withrow Students Learn Work and Social Skills Through Tiger Diner

Your donations to the Withrow Alumni Assn help support Tiger Diner, an innovative program with two praiseworthy goals: first, to show appreciation to faculty and staff; and second, to provide 16 students with multiple disabilities the opportunity for job training and preparation.

Once a month, students prepare and serve a delicious lunch. During the week before, all students cook the food and bake the desserts. On the day of Tiger Diner, they set up the tables and get the food ready to serve. Jobs include hostess and wait staff. Since Withrow has three separate lunches, students rotate among jobs.

Serving food and drink in a restaurant-like setting helps students learn what it’s like to have a real-life job with some pressure and practice their customer relations and social skills.

Among the meals staff have enjoyed were chicken teriyaki, a salad bar including Caesar salad, chili, fajitas and burritos, chess pie, cheesecake, carrot cake, and pineapple upside down cake. They appreciate the chance to enjoy a relaxed meal with colleagues in a pleasant setting. There is no charge, but servers do accept tips.

Meghan Kenney is one of the special education teachers who organize Tiger Diner. “We place much focus on job training and simulation programs. We (the teachers) are working to build relationships with businesses so we can develop in our students the skills these businesses will require of their employees.”

Ms. Kenney also stresses the importance of rewarding students for the job they do. They use the tips to take students on field trips. Recently, they had an outing to Shaan Indian restaurant.

Students mapped out which Metro bus route to take to best fit their time frame. At the restaurant, they were able to sample many different types of ethnic foods from the buffet. They were well behaved and respectful to the staff (after all, they know what the job is like!)

When Ms. Kenney went to pay, the owner informed her that a patron at the restaurant was so impressed by the good behavior that he felt everyone deserved a treat — so he paid their bill. Not only was it a kind gesture, but it spoke to the skills the students have developed through Tiger Diner and their daily lives at Withrow.

Tips from future Tiger Diner meals will be used for outings to a bowling alley, a Chinese restaurant, and the Harriet Beecher Stowe house.

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