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All the Trappings of Success

EXCEL students gain work experience with Bear Trap food stand

When Bob Donahue is on duty at the Bear Trap convenience stand, be sure to ask for his special flavor of smoothies.

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, he doled out strawberry banana versions of the popular drink while greeting passing students with a smile.

“It’s caring for people and making them feel special,” Bob said of working at the convenience stand in the Tinsley Center lobby.

Bob is one of the first students in Bridgewater State’s EXCEL program to staff the Bear Trap through a new internship. EXCEL provides an inclusive postsecondary experience for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The partnership with food service provider Sodexo helps Bob and his peers gain important job skills. Working alongside Sodexo student employees, four EXCEL students participate in all facets of running the stand, from taking inventory to making smoothies to serving customers.

“It gives me the opportunity to learn more new things and learn more about myself,” Bob said.

The initiative breaks down barriers people with disabilities face in the job market because it provides experience students can show prospective employers, said Dr. Jon Cash, EXCEL’s interim director.

“The Bear Trap allows students who see point of sale operations management as their future to come to BSU, experience college, and have an outcome of their choice that will help them find competitive employment,” Cash said.

Sodexo and EXCEL launched the pilot program in the fall semester. Organizers hope it becomes a model for dining programs at other universities.

“Sodexo is a company that’s invested in our diversity and inclusion,” said Staci DeSimone, general manager of BSU Dining. “Piloting this program helps to explore what Sodexo can do for all people.”

The partnership has proven beneficial for everyone involved.

“I really, really like working with this population,” said psychology major Sierra Cummins-Remington, ’25, who runs the stand alongside Bob. “I learn more from them than they learn from me.”

Sierra, who is minoring in special education and works as an education coach for the EXCEL program, appreciates the hands-on experience as she aspires to become a life coach serving people with disabilities.

Bob, who is attending a principles of management class this semester, also sees a connection to his career goals.

He hopes to one day open a food truck with his father. But he knows he has already pleased his parents because of his growth as a Bear.

“I’m making my mom and dad proud and showing them that I can be like them,” he said.

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