Campus & Culture

University's Saxbys Location Teams up With Kinney Center to Expand Employment Opportunities

Kinney Center client Ira Tucker is the first neurodivergent individual to be hired at the University’s cafe location.

Ira Tucker working during his shift at Saxbys

by Gabrielle Lacherza '23 (MBA)

Saxbys, the Pennsylvania-based hospitality business, has cafes on various college campuses. In 2018, Saxbys opened a student-run cafe on Saint Joseph’s campus in the Campion Student Center. The cafes are part of the brand’s Experiential Learning Platform, which is designed to supplement traditional classroom lessons by providing undergraduate students with entrepreneurial opportunities.

Since then, it has employed a number of Saint Joseph’s undergraduate students. Now, the business is furthering its inclusive mission by teaming up with the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support to offer employment opportunities to adults on the spectrum. 

Ira Tucker, a client in Kinney’s Adult Day Program, is the first neurodivergent individual on the cafe’s staff. Tucker has worked with the Kinney Center since 2015, where he has participated in a variety of programs and has received support services to help him continue on a path of independence.

The Center makes me feel like anything could be possible.

Ira Tucker

“The Center makes me feel like anything could be possible,” says Tucker.

For the past five months, Tucker has been working as a beverage expediter, where he’s learned the cafe’s full beverage menu, preps and makes drinks and takes orders. During his two-hour shifts, Tucker is accompanied by a Kinney Center employee to help ensure he’s meeting his goals and providing any additional support needed. As he becomes more acclimated to the position, his hours will increase. 

“Watching Ira learn and grow as a beverage expeditor has been rewarding and I can tell by his excitement coming into the cafe each day that he feels the same,” says Anna Cuff ’23, student cafe executive officer. “I’m proud of my team for giving Ira a warm welcome into the Saxbys community and am so proud of Ira for being open-minded, having patience and engaging with the rest of the team each time he’s in the cafe. I can’t wait to see him move throughout the various positions on the Saxbys team.”

The Kinney Center works with a variety of different adult clients to further develop the life skills needed to live independently such as cooking, laundry and money management, while also developing vocational skills that can translate into full or part time employment. 

“One of our main goals at the Kinney Center is to help adults on the spectrum continue their journey to independence,” says Angus Murray, executive director of the Kinney Center. “We’re happy to find a partner that is interested in providing opportunities for our adult clients right on campus.”