A helping hand to
INDEPENDENCE I S A B E L L E S C H M A LT Z St. Helena’s V. Sattui Winery, famous for its idyllic picnic grounds and artisan deli, provides everything visitors need for a wine country picnic. But behind the scenes, V. Sattui is providing perhaps an even greater service to a group of young adults. Anyone who has picnicked at V. Sattui has likely purchased the winery’s picnic pack: plates, cups and utensils for two. Each pack also contains a unique note: “A special thank you to the dedicated developmentally-challenged students at the Napa valley Unified School District (NVUSD) Post-Secondary Project for packing this planet-conscious ‘Green Picnic Pack.’” The young adults behind the V. Sattui picnic packs are a group of 35 students, ages 18 to 22. The disabilities they live with are wide ranging but can include neurological issues, autism, speech and hearing impairments. All of the students are NVUSD high school graduates. Because of their disabilities, they are offered the option of the district’s post-secondary program until they are 22. “Our day is built around preparing our students to be adults,” said Cory Roche, a teacher for the post-secondary program. He said less than 50 percent of the students’ days are spent in the classroom. “We’re out a lot,” Roche said. “We think of the community as our classroom.” The students work on the V. Sattui picnic packs two hours a day, four days a week. They work offsite assembling the packs at two different locations: the senior center and the Boys and Girls Club. 46
A group of picnickers are seen on the grounds of V. Sattui Winery on Highway 29 in St. Helena.
Classified as “student-learners” under the U.S. Department of Labor, each student earns a wage from V. Sattui. “They appreciate the opportunity to be treated like everyone else,” Roche said, adding that the partnership with V. Sattui has been “invaluable” to the special education program. Earning money helps the students to set goals. With their paychecks from V. Sattui, the students can save money for something they need or want, said Stephanie Solberg, vocational specialist with NVUSD. “It’s purposeful work,” Solberg Contributed photo said. Brandon Sakata, a 19-year-old Students assembling the V. Sattui picknick packs: left to right, Carlo student currently enrolled in the Barrera, Nicole Greco, Jennifer Calderon, Daniela Duran, Jason Weiner, Abe