Students find valuable opportunity through dog bones

Taylor Murray  | The Chronicle

The smell of peanut butter cookies wafting from a nearby classroom may instead be a batch of dog bones.

Brewhaus Bakery Co., based in Cincinnati, Ohio and founded by Lisa Graham, is a non-profit organization that takes spent grains from breweries in the area and uses them to make dog treats. Along with their bakery in Mount Washington, Brewhaus also offers a vocational training model where they send the ingredients to school districts in the area. The purpose of the vocational model is to provide students with disabilities that attend those schools the option to participate.

Graham started the organization when she visited San Diego and saw a business making products such as dog treats from spent grains. She has a daughter with a disability, and she said she was very excited to find a place of work where young adults with disabilities can be a part of the entire production process, from preparing the ingredients to selling the bagged treats. She was eager to share the program with schools in the Greater Cincinnati area, and there are currently 17 districts actively participating.

“It’s great to be able to have a supportive work environment, to be able to work with so many wonderful school programs and figure out a fun pathway to build jobs and job opportunities and job skills,” Graham said.

Mason High School (MHS) work study and transition coordinator Keri Thompson leads Brewhaus’ vocational training model during Connect Time every month for her students. She said the program provides a multitude of opportunities for the students and has helped them grow and strengthen their workplace skills.

“Our program is designed to help young adults practice a variety of vocational and employability skills,” Thompson said. “It’s for students whose plan after high school is to go into the world of work. We’re just trying to maximize their independence and their ability to be able to work and live as independently as possible.”

Through the Brewhaus program, the participating students are able to see a good being produced from start to finish. During the Connect Times, the kids measure and mix the ingredients to make the batter and then pour them into the bone-shaped rubber molds. From there, they bag and seal the treats, labeling each package with a Brewhaus sticker and a stamp identifying the brewery that contributed to that batch. On November 15th, 2023, MHS students personally sold the peanut-butter flavored dog treats at the Mason Community Center hosted Shop Local event.

“It’s a neat activity for our students to be a part of because they can see a product all the way from the ingredients to the finished product, and then they get an opportunity to sell these twice a year,” Thompson said.

Graham said that being able to provide these opportunities for students with disabilities like her daughter is very rewarding. She has a master’s degree in social work, and she said she loves getting to meet all of the students and their parents and being able to make a change in their lives.

“My goal has always been to do something that helps make the world a better place,” Graham said. “The fact that this has all worked, even though it’s a lot of work [makes me] feel fantastic. That’s what motivates me to keep going – to help people learn job skills or have a good experience working as an adult.”