Oak Hills High School helps young adults with disabilities build skills for independent life

CINCINNATI -- 21c chef and Cincinnati State student Ashley Mulle spends part of each week teaching transitional students at Oak Hills High School a skill most young adults wish they were better at: Cooking. 

It's an important skill for anyone, naturally, but intervention specialist Debbie Stallo said learning to cook is an especially auspicious step for young adults with disabilities who hope to live independently after graduating from school.

"I want them all to be able to have as normal as possible al life, where they're making their own meals and taking care of themselves wherever they're living," she said.

Mulle, who said she has enjoyed volunteering since her own high school days, works to make sure her students learn to prepare simple dishes they'll be able to eat regularly when living on their own. 

The results, she said, are "lots of fun." Dishes the class has worked on so far include pasta primavera, waffles and eggs with sausage.

"They've opened up more and are getting more confident in trying new foods," Mulle said.

The exercise is about more than what happens in the kitchen, added Stallo. Before they turn on the burners, students shop for the ingredients with the help of a speech teacher. This teaches them to budget and to navigate around a grocery store.

"Some of these kids need a little more time to learn how to take care of themselves," she said. "They need a little more help -- a little more time to mature."

She, Mulle and the rest of Oak Hills' transitional instructors are happy to provide it.

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