Clark State named excellence award finalist for TAC partnership

Clark State College has been named a finalist for an excellence award for its partnership with The Abilities Connection (TAC).

The college is a finalist for the 2023 American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Awards of Excellence in the category of Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership.

“Our community is always strengthened by collaboration, and this partnership with TAC is an example for all of us in the region to be proud of,” said President Jo Alice Blondin. “The innovation represented by Fresh Abilities and our training capacities is worthy of this recognition, and we are honored to be a finalist.”

TAC is an organization that empowers people with disabilities and other barriers to reach their full potential through employment, training and support.

Fresh Abilities is a training program for workers with disabilities interested in working in the food service industry. Its employees complete over 110 hours of training in food service, such as food safety and preparation, customer service and other related skills, before transitioning into the restaurant to gain hands-on experience and later pursing employment in the food service business.

Clark State provides the classroom portion of training for the employees for additional instruction to help build skills for future employment in any type of restaurant. It also gives prospective students who may have not anticipated attending college and exposure to higher education.

Bridget Doane, manager of commercial enterprises at TAC, said the partnership with the college has been beneficial for not only TAC but for many people with disabilities and other barriers.

“We’ve seen our trainees thrive in this new environment on Clark State’s campus, with their classroom and hands-on kitchen experience taking place all within one building on a campus of higher education,” Doane said. “We are certain this training model is replicable in similar settings, and we look forward to sharing the story of Fresh Abilities with community colleges from across the country.”

Each college’s application is reviewed against the criteria for the AACC Excellence award and assigned a score for each category. The colleges with the highest scores move on to become finalists, then the AACC staff narrows them down and a committee of the board of directors selects the winners.

The winners will be announced at the Awards of Excellence Gala on April 3 during the AACC Annual conference from April 1-4 in Denver.

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