Recipe for success

Sixteen-year-old Jashne Baniya’s favorite parts of working at the Gahanna Barkery, a micro business started out of Gahanna Lincoln High School, are finding the ingredients for the dog treats at the grocery store and working with the dough. TNS

GAHANNA, Ohio — With the smell of peanut butter wafting from the oven, room 125 of Gahanna Lincoln High School looks and smells more like a bakery than a classroom.

It’s home to the Gahanna Barkery, a micro business started this year by the school’s special education program to make and sell dog treats. The special education program, called Extended Support Services (ESS), serves students with multiple disabilities.

“It’s been really fun,” said Jill Evans, an intervention specialist at the school. “The students have really enjoyed all the different parts of it. “

Twenty-eight students are taking part in the Barkery, which was created to help teens develop their fine motor development, learn to follow multi-step directions and get introduced to budgeting. The business also gives students a chance work on their language skills by interacting with customers.

The goal is to help the students develop life skills as well as be ready to go out into the workforce after they graduate high school, Evans said.

The beginnings of the Barkery started last school year when the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the special education program from taking students out into the community to practice vocational work skills.

Former teacher Cheryl Kempf and Dianna Huffman-Barr, a school speech and language pathologist, came up with the idea of the Gahanna Barkery after discovering similar programs elsewhere.

The students learned how to bake dog treats and perfected their skills in class last school year. After a soft opening involving giving dog treats to the staff last year, the Barkery started selling the canine goodies to the community this year.

The Barkery delivers orders within the city limits of Gahanna and ships orders to customers outside of Gahanna. Staff assistants deliver orders with a team of special education students. Orders can also be picked up at Gahanna Lincoln High School during school hours.

“Usually, we get a giant amount of orders at one time, so then we figure out what we need and take a deep breath and go from there,” Evans said.

So far this school year, the Barkery has sold between 200 and 250 bags of treats, said Shane Natalie, an intervention specialist.

The Barkery makes two different kinds of dog treats: pumpkin and oat. All treat bags are $10 and the money goes back to the school’s special education program to help resupply the Barkery.

The students help with the baking process from start to finish — including making the grocery list, shopping for supplies, making the dough, getting the dog treats ready to bake, packaging and labeling the treats and dropping them off.

On a recent Friday afternoon, 16-year-old Jashne Baniya flattened the dough, cut out bone-shaped dog treats and carefully lined them up on a baking sheet to go in the oven.

Her favorite parts of the Barkery are finding the ingredients at the grocery store and working with the dough.

“It’s so fun to make,” said the sophomore.

Seventeen-year-old Timothy Caslin scooped piles of dog treats into packages, but admits he prefers to work with the dough.

“It feels like Play-Doh,” the junior said.

When the Barkery started, a lot of the students had a hard time touching the sticky, wet cold dough or didn’t want to help with the different tasks. Now, a year later, many of the students look forward to making the dog treats.

“They know that it’s for a purpose and they can see that what they are doing is for the community and for pets,” Natalie said. “My favorite part is watching how independent a lot of our students have become through the process. ... It feels really good to watch them grow.”

Natalie’s Norwegian Elkhound-beagle mix gets a dog treat baked at the Barkery every night before bed.

“She lives for them,” he said. “... She’ll do anything for these treats.”

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Tribune Wire

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