Katie Noll was ready at the cash register when one of the first customers of the day stepped up.
“Is that everything?” Noll, 19, asked.
“Oh, wait, hold on,” said the customer, a fellow West Chester University student, as she whirled around to grab gum.
“Your total will be $7.96,” Noll said.
The transaction was a simple one, but for a student such as Noll, who has autism, the experience of working in a newly opened convenience store, dealing with strangers, managing multiple tasks, and understanding basic social cues can be challenging but also key to preparing for the career world.
West Chester last week became the first university in the country to open a convenience store on campus to provide workplace training for autistic students, according to a Yale University expert whose organization is familiar with college programs nationally.
The Ram Shop, located in the same building as West Chester’s autism program, will be a training ground for up to a quarter of the 50 students in the autism program on the 17,840-student state university’s campus, said Cherie Fishbaugh, director of autism services.
West Chester president Christopher Fiorentino plans to job-shadow the student workers later in September.