As a pillar in the community and our first stop in the morning, the Watauga location of Shipley Do-nuts has partnered with Keller ISD’s Adult Transition program for upwards of six years.

Shipley Do-Nuts is an American doughnut chain with over 300 franchise stores across six states. Founded in 1936, the brand has since taken off. A large contributor to the longevity and success are the entrepreneurs who purchase a franchise and operate the branch through their own means.

Owners of the Watauga location, Sundary Rama and Mony Chheng, will have ran their thriving establishment for nearly 16 years, as of Dec. 6. As Cambodian refugees, both has left the warring country and moved from California to Texas to further move into the business.

Subsequently, the dedication of Rama, Chheng, and their staff has not gone unnoticed. This particular location is the recipient of numerous awards and certificates, recognizing their open arms towards the community.

A way that they have showcased this trait is through their participation in the Keller ISD special education program, My Connections. My Connections is a high school transition program meant to ease the shift from high school to adult life. This process includes three tracks: My Career Connections, My Community Connections, and My Life Connections.

Shipley Do-nuts’ partnership is more specifically with My Career Connections. The program admits two students with one instructor per semester. The small number of participants increases the guided focus of both the teacher and students. Throughout the workday, the instructor will observe as the young adults fulfill their daily duties. This looser rein of direction encourages each task to be done to the best of their own abilities.

Furthmore, it is in Sundary’s nature to create positive and personal relationships with her employees.

With some of her staff being experienced employees and some being younger and working their first job, she treats them all with respect.

“I train them the same way I train my staff,” Sundary explains. “We support all kinds of students.”

While on the job, Sundary describes being with the learning students as “engaging…’ and that ‘what [they] all do together is from the heart.” The length of time each student will work with a particular business within My Connections usually lasts a full semester. However, this does not stop them from asking to return to working with Shipley Do-Nuts

My Connections’ curriculum is as follows: This course focuses on the skills student need to be successful in the transition from school to work. Students will participate in either campus-based or off-campus non-paid work experiences to enhance the educational experience. Students will participate in meaningful career exploration; learn and practice positive work attitudes, behaviors, and skills; learn first-hand about employers’ expectations; experience a community “classroom” which offers real world rewards and consequences. Students will learn and practice self-advocacy and problem-solving skills. These community opportunities will assist the student to establish goals for the future and to prepare to transition from high school to adult life.

Each branch of the My Connections program is hosted at a different site. My Career is held here, at Timber Creek, My Community is at the Keller Center for Advanced Learning (KCAL), and My Life takes place at Central High School. Respective to its curriculum, each class teaches a trade differing from the others.

In My Career Connections, students will partake in job sampling. They may gain experience from the custodial division, athletic department, food services, retail, daily living, and more. This will allow them to learn their strengths and weaknesses in the workplace. Through interactions with their coworkers, employers, and customers, an aspect of their skills and behavior generally enhances.

Ms. Letitia Smiley and Mr. Oscar Rodriguez are Keller ISD instructors of the My Career Connection track. Smiley explained how the students’ daily schedule may begin.

“[The students] clock themselves in and then they get their name tags,” Smiley said. “They have to be checked off because they have to know what their uniform is and have to be able to tell where their work site is for the day.”

However, mostly importantly, the class pridefully recites their motto to persist through the day with. “Set your goals high and don’t stop till you get there. Believe you can and you are halfway there.” Following this daily tradition, the students and teachers depart the classroom and learn from the endeavors of each day may hold for them.

Off-campus vocational sites are the businesses and organizations outside of the originating school where students may work at. Some establishments that have partnered with this program include Shipley Do-Nuts, Super Goodwill, Kroger, the Mansions at Timberland, Courtyard Marriott, Today’s Kids Academy, Winco, Super Walmart, Petco, Trinity Springs Middle School, and more. All have extended their workplace in some way to the students learning these evergreen lessons.

Through these various work environments, the young adults are able to develop a number of skills. A few tasks that they are asked to complete may encompass food preparations, shelf stocking, or cleaning and home maintenance. Overall, each student will rotate through four different work experiences within a six week time period.

As everyday is observed by an instructor, the students are graded via a daily evaluation sheet.  

“We give them either positive feedback from the previous day or tell them the things they may need to work on,” Smiley elaborates. “Instead of a letter grade, they are scored in a one to five scale for each [area of practice].

Beyond learning where they work best in the workforce, it is essential be engaging within society. My Community Connections is where they could build on the skills to do so. Pre-vocational lessons are given and students are able to learn the necessary need-to-knows that may be overlooked.

Lastly, My Life Connections helps the young adults cultivate the abilities to become more independent as an adult. Here, students will participate in, “Leisure or recreational activities, maintaining personal care, effective communication styles, and things of that nature.” Smiley explains.

Students within the My Connections program attend the My Career course fours day a week, My Community two days, and My Life one day. The length of each track varies on the individual themselves. With this, the young adults are given the chance to work at their own pace and truly learn what they are taught.

Alongside others, Shipley Do-Nuts is an essential part of this process. More than just a business, this partnership gives students the feeling of pride to have their own independent future.

“This teaches you life skills. It is something you learn, and people cannot take that away… That’s what we learned in the war,” Sundary feels. “You can have all of the money you want, but that can be taken. So when you have the knowledge, no one can take that from you.”