New shop at West Chester employs students with autism

WEST CHESTER, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Like a lot of other college kids, West Chester University sophomore Katie Noll is grinding her way through school with an on-campus job.

"I like it. I like working here. It gives me something to do during school hours and it's a way to make money," she said.

But because of the way her job is designed, she's walking away from each shift with a lot more than a paycheck.

"Also, I've worked on my people skills a lot which I feel like is really important," Noll said.

Noll works in the university's new Ram Shop. It's built to be a job training site for students on the autism spectrum, and is the first of its kind in the country.

The shop is an extension of D-Cap, which is West Chester's support program for students with autism.

"One of the big challenges for students on the autism spectrum is employability after graduation," said university President Chris Fiorentino.

The director of the program, Cherie Fishbaugh, says nationwide, only about 30 percent of students with autism graduate.

"Eighty-five to 90 percent are still unemployed six years later," she said.

However, she says, the numbers at West Chester prove their program is working.

"Ninety-two percent of our students are staying at the university," she said.

Noll says the program changed her life.

"Actually, I hadn't been diagnosed with autism until I chose West Chester," she said. "So, West Chester having this program is an even better reason why I chose this school."
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