Natalie's Everyday Heroes: St. Francis school's intellectual disabilities program teaches life skills through baking

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ST. FRANCIS, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A passion for baking has turned into a real-life business for a group of students in St. Francis.

Educator Angela Chappell helps them run Manny's Mariner Munchies, which is named after St. Francis High School's mascot. The students are in the intellectual disabilities program, and baking is teaching them important life skills that Chappell hopes will lead to jobs after high school.

"I'm very excited and pumped up to try this cupcake," said Dominic, one of the students, getting ready to take a big bite.

Taste-testing cupcakes might seem like a reward, but for the students in this class at St. Francis high school, it's part of the assignment.

"It's teaching them social skills, responsibility, reading," Chappell said. "They know how to work hard, follow directions, follow recipes."

With some math thrown in, too, when they're working out a new recipe.

"Reese's Take 5 cupcakes. They're like the Reese's Take 5 candy bar," she said of their new item.

In this nonprofit bakery business, each student has a role.

"To work as a team," Arianna said.

Drizzling the cupcakes with caramel, dipping pretzels in chocolate and piping the frosting.

"The lesson for today is for sure teamwork, because we have a little assembly line going and everybody is doing their part," Chappell said, as the students put the cupcakes together.

Chappell is a paraprofessional who helps to oversee Manny's Mariner Munchies. It started with one student's passion for baking.

"She actually wanted to work hard so she could earn baking," Chappell recalled. "We didn't really know what to do with the baked goods, so we started selling them to staff and it took off very quickly."

Their Facebook page is full of photos of their beautiful baked goods, custom cupcakes and cakes. Customers can place orders there, or they also sell their wares at a variety of places - including local farmers markets.

"Now we have a full-fledged business. Each student has a role they're very good at," she said. They fill out timesheets to get used to what it's like when they do have a job, when they're able to have a job."

They take special orders. For example, a cake shaped like a donut for a baby shower.

The students get real life experience -- one of the things Chappell likes to see.

"Seeing them communicate with the people we're serving or that we're working for, and seeing the people that we're serving really accept and embrace these students for all of the hard work that they do," Chappell said.

These seven students in the transition class all take part and take pride in their work.

"If you're into sweets, you should try this, because this hits the spot," Dominic said. "Manny's Mariner Munchies is awesome."

It's a sweet success Chappell hopes will set them up for more achievement in the future.

Chappell's goal is to one day have an actual bakery storefront to employ students when they graduate.

"This is just showing them that finding their strengths, that they'll be able to do anything," she said.

For more information on Manny's Mariner Munchies, or to place an order, visit Manny’s Mariner Munchies and More on Facebook.

If you'd like to nominate an Everyday Hero, send Natalie a message at NShepherd@cbs58.com.

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