North Ridgeville’s Able Not Label shop exudes a sense of pride and purpose as 17 students with special needs work as a team with their support staff to prep and cut vinyl, weed the design and then use a heat press to adhere the design onto apparel, signs, pet bowls, mugs and other merchandise. When finished, items are checked, price-tagged and ready for sale in the adjoining store or through online orders.
Made possible by a series of grants, the Able Not Label shop celebrated its grand opening on June 29. The student-run business provides innovative ways for kids to get creative while sharpening skills that include money and inventory management, folding clothing, cleaning, quality control and customer service — tasks that will transfer into many aspects of life after graduation.
“At the high school, we’re dedicated to teaching vocational training and life skills that lead to hands-on learning for students with intensive needs,” says Caitlin Carlo, intervention specialist for the North Ridgeville City School District and the shop’s director.
“Able Not Label is a new way of showing the community that our students are capable of so much and to focus on their abilities — not just look at them as students with disabilities,” Carlo says.
All sales are accompanied by a thank-you note that reads: “Each item is handmade from the heart. It may have imperfections, which makes it unique, one of a kind, like each of us.”
“Everyone involved with it is doing what they’re doing out of the goodness of their hearts for the future of these children,” says Superintendent Roxann Caserio. Proceeds from sales fund community outings such as meals out and Lake Erie Crushers games. Each excursion is designed to help students practice etiquette and socialization skills.
“We have a fan base rooting for us who gives us opportunities to create new programs and enhance existing ones,” says Jason Sewell, Able Not Label’s co-director. “That feels great.”
Spirit wear sporting the schools’ Ranger logo is very popular, as are items from the shop’s Inclusion Collection — with such poignant phrases as “Differences are Beautiful,” “Choose to Include” and “Radiate Kindness.”
Twelfth grader Cayden Platsky sums up what Able Not Label means to him: “We spend our money on field trips. Sky Zone was my favorite field trip. We went to celebrate our hard work and for reaching our goal. It was fun!”
Able Not Label shop, 34100 Center Ridge Road, nrcs.net/domain/249