MCSD Whiteboard: SWAP gives students a special chance to succeed

Moffat County School District
MCSD Whiteboard
Members of Moffat County School District's School to Work Alliance Program (SWAP), from left, Ethan Boswell, Tabbitha Mogus and Madison Simonet, work at the mobile Blue Bark Cafe Wednesday at the Yampa Building.
Moffat County School District/Courtesy photo

Wednesday afternoon, a small group of Moffat County High School Students were out on the town, plying their trade as the Blue Bark Cafe.

The mobile version of the cafe — which calls room 107 at the high school its home base — set up shop at the Yampa Building to provide quality beverages both cold and hot to attendees of Northwest Colorado Center for Independence’s second annual Youth Transition Resource Roundup. The Roundup is a clearinghouse of sorts for the kinds of services and help students with disabilities and their parents often need as those students transition from the school setting into the next phase of their lives, whatever that might be.

The students serving drinks with the Blue Bark Cafe were members of MCHS’s School-to-Work Alliance Program, or SWAP. SWAP is designed to provide employment-related assistance to youth and young adults who identify as having a disability or who feel they have a barrier to employment. The program is run by Amanda McDermott and Dakota Ahlstrom.

“I really like working here,” said Tabby Mogus, a longtime SWAP student. Mogus has been in the program several years and is now a manager of the Blue Bark Cafe. “I like it because I get to talk to other people. It helps make that more comfortable. And it helped me get my other job, at the movie theater.”

Mogus said she works concessions and closes at the West Twin Cinema in town, a job she loves, and one she doesn’t feel like she could have gotten without SWAP.

Ethan Boswell mixes up a Sunrise Lemonade for a customer of the Blue Bark Cafe Wednesday at the Yampa Building. Boswell is part of Moffat County School District’s School to Work Alliance Program (SWAP).
Moffat County School District/Courtesy photo

Ethan Boswell, another SWAP student, is new to the program.

“I really enjoy it,” Boswell said. “This is my first year doing it and it’s just a lot of fun. I’m learning how to do lots of new things.”

Boswell touted the Sunrise Lemonade, a flavored lemonade in the mobile cafe’s offering.

“It tastes really good,” he said.

Disabilities can take the form of physical, emotional or learning disabilities, and SWAP provides assistance that not only produces desirable employment outcomes, such as career-path jobs, but also teaches appropriate job seeking and job retention skills that can be utilized through a student’s lifetime. SWAP is a collaborative initiative between the Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) and Moffat County School District. It’s supported by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE).

“We can really help all kinds of kids get into a position where they have skills to use toward a career,” said McDermott. “It’s very broad, and we try to create a space where it’s not so intimidating to get involved.”

Madison Simonet also manages the Blue Bark Cafe as a longtime SWAP member. She expressed a particular appreciation for the time she’s spent learning skills with the program, which include designing logos and merchandise and producing them — items like t-shirts or key chains.

“It’s helped me a lot working here,” Simonet said.

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