by Nicole Hackett, Student Public Relations Writer
Cedarville alumna Shari Hunter from Aurora, Ohio, has made it her life’s mission to help fully integrate people with mild to moderate cognitive challenges and developmental delays into the local workforce. She does not see her clients as disabled, but as people with incredible exceptionalities. Hunter’s youngest son, Derek, who has Down syndrome, drives her mission.
“When Derek was born, I decided I would never label him or limit him. I prayed God would go above and beyond all I could think or ask,” recounted Hunter, who graduated from Cedarville in 1985. “Derek is now 25 years old and has been married to Lauren for 2 1/2 years. They both drive, attended college and live in their own home independently.”
— Shari Hunter
To see her mission become a reality, Hunter founded the Two Foundation in 2013. The Two Foundation is a jobs-education program that helps individuals with exceptionalities more easily transition from high school to the workforce. In January 2015, Hunter added the Two Cafe and Boutique, a farm-to-fork cafe and coffee shop, as a place to train those with such exceptionalities.
“I do not want Two Cafe and Boutique to be a ‘special place where special people work.’ That is the opposite of what I am about,” explained Hunter. “Our message is that we are all people with God-given strengths and weaknesses, and we work together to get the job done. Two Cafe and Boutique should be nothing unusual, but the norm we hope to see happen more and more.”
Individuals in the Two Foundation program work an average of 16-20 shifts at Two Cafe while participating in the training program that focuses on self-determination, resume writing and interviewing skills.
“We train individuals within the café and boutique so from day one they are experiencing the real workplace, not a segregated workshop,” described Hunter.
They will then write their resume and a quick pitch about themselves before the Two Foundation sets them up with an interview for a business that reflects the individual's skills and interests.
Once they transition out of the Two Foundation and into the workplace, ongoing support is always available as needed.
More than 90 individuals have gone through the Two Foundation program, with graduates working at more than 40 different businesses in northeast Ohio.
Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University is an accredited, Christ-centered, Baptist institution with an enrollment of 4,193 undergraduate, graduate and online students in more than 150 areas of study. Founded in 1887, Cedarville is recognized nationally for its authentic Christian community, rigorous academic programs, strong graduation and retention rates, accredited professional and health science offerings and leading student satisfaction ratings. For more information about the University, visit www.cedarville.edu.