Geoffrey Steggell and William Edwards at work at the UDairy Creamery.

TEEM up

UDairy Creamery partners with Center for Disabilities Studies

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8:27 a.m., Aug. 4, 2011--For Geoffrey Steggell and William Edwards, the UDairy Creamery is a great place to hone the skills that they’ve learned at the University of Delaware’s Center for Disabilities Studies (CDS). 

UDairy Creamery has partnered with CDS to hire individuals with disabilities to work in the store through the center’s Transition, Education and Employment Model (TEEM) Employment Services program.

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TEEM helps individuals with disabilities gain greater independence and involvement in the community. TEEM’s Employment Services program teach employment skills, social awareness, effective communication and self-advocacy. 

Although originally hired to work in the UDaily Creamery production area making ice cream, Steggell and Edwards also operate the cash register and take customer orders. They receive on-the-job coaching from CDS employment specialist Sophie DeMesse, who helps them communicate and problem solve. 

DeMesse is a 2010 graduate of UD's College of Education and Human Development who has a degree in human services with a minor in disabilities studies. As an employment specialist for TEEM Employment Services, she guides individuals with disabilities through the entire process of employment, helping them to obtain and maintain jobs in the community.

Steggell, a 22-year-old graduate of Newark High School, says he loves working at the UDairy Creamery. His favorite aspect of the job is working at the cash register, but he also enjoys making ice cream. He works with the food science team to create various flavors, including the new Cinnamon Toast Crunchie.

Edwards, a 21-year-old graduate of Hodgson Vocational Technical High School, also enjoys his time at the UDairy Creamery, where his favorite part of the job is making ice cream. He takes part and enjoys all aspects of making ice cream and helping to operate the creamery.

As employees of the UDairy Creamery, Steggell and Edwards learn how to work as members of a team, how to provide good customer support and—most importantly—how to make great ice cream. But they aren’t the only ones who benefit from the partnership between UDairy Creamery and CDS.

UDairy Creamery manager Melinda Litvinas says that employees can learn how to interact more effectively with individuals with disabilities as members of the workforce and community. As the program has continued, Litvinas says that she has “observed a positive response to Geoffrey and William’s work from both the creamery employees and the public.” 

DeMesse agrees that the entire community benefits from this and other TEEM Employment Services partnerships because employing people with disabilities opens the eyes of customers and other employees to new situations and possibilities. “There are many challenges and many barriers to getting a person a job, but it’s so rewarding when the individual can work independently, loves the job and succeeds in doing just as well as anyone else,” she says.

CDS actively reaches out to prospective employers like the creamery who are open to employing individuals with disabilities. “We are so grateful for the openness that many employers at UD have demonstrated by creating opportunities for individuals with disabilities,” says Brian Freedman, director of the TEEM unit.

Since starting work at the UDairy Creamery, Steggell and Edwards have both been accepted into TEEM’s new Career and Life Studies Certificate (CLSC) program. This program is designed for individuals who want to continue their education after high school but require additional assistance. The two-year CLSC program, which leads to a certificate, is tailored to the needs of the individual and provides coaching and peer mentoring for the participants. It gives young adults like Steggell and Edwards more options for their future.

For more information about the UDairy Creamery and special promotions, “like” UDairy Creamery on Facebook or visit the creamery website

Information about the Center for Disabilities Studies is available at the center's website.

Article by Jenna Byers

Photos by Danielle Quigley

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