Arts and crafts store by Jardon's special needs students offers creativity, independence

The Jardon General Store may look like your standard arts and crafts seller, but step inside and you'll see that this is an opportunity. Working at the store are students with special needs from Jardon Vocational School which is part of the Hazel Park School District.

"It makes me happy that I’m working here," said student Gabe Kleckner.

Prior to the pandemic, these students learned job skills outside of the classroom.

"We had several job sites a Beaumont prior to Covid, we worked at the Detroit Zoo, at the Arctic Café," said Megan Papasian-Broadwell, the principal at Jardon Vocational School.

But when students returned for in-person lessons, some restrictions remained.

"We were not allowed to send our students out into the community to practice their work skills, and that’s why they come here," said Broadwell.

So administrators and staff had to come up with another plan - and decided to think out the box.

"We came up with the idea that we would start to build micro businesses at the school," the principal said.

Students were trained and started making all sorts of items.

"We got the plants from the greenhouse and then we put them in the cups with some dirt, put rocks in each cup and then work put water on them," said Gabe.

Another student, Alex, has autism and speaks through a device.  He took time to show us the floor mats he makes.

As students created items, the school staff and administrators decided to take this concept to the next level.

"(By) design(ing) it as a general store, so we can really showcase their crafts and developing their independence and creativity," said Broadwell.

Students are now learning skills for future jobs and independent living.

The general store is open to the public at 2200 Woodward Heights Ave. The store's grand opening will take place Sept. 29 through Oct. 1, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. To check out the school's Facebook page CLICK HERE.

"I think it’s really nice to help the kids out," said customer Jenna Krzyzak. "And they have a really nice selection here."

"I am so proud of all the students and staff, they really put their heart and soul into learning and preparing for the future," Broadwell said.