On June 6, Sampson Community College’s (SCC) Academy of Continuing Excellence (ACE) program, led by Allie Turner, Lead ACE instructor, visited the USS North Carolina battleship and Bitty & Beau’s Coffee in Wilmington, NC as part of a class field trip.
The excursion was funded by the money the ACE students raised through their Viking Perk Coffee Shop on campus.
The purpose of the ACE program is to assist students with learning and intellectual disabilities in the areas of reading, writing, math, and vocational skills. The main goal is for each student to make an effortless transition into an additional post-secondary education option or employment. Offering applications in reading, writing, math and vocational skills, the ACE program runs year-round and does not dismiss for Summer break. All ACE Program classes are free of charge.
During their outing, the group was able to explore all levels of the USS North Carolina and learn more about its history from some of the volunteers. After a picnic lunch on the waterfront, the program then visited Bitty & Beau’s Coffee, which Turner explained, was particularly important for her students to see.
Owned by Ben and Amy Wright, Bitty & Beau’s opened in Wilmington in 2016, employing 19 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Wrights are proud parents to four children—one born with autism, and two born with Down syndrome. With over 80% of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities unemployed nationwide, the Wrights believe that Bitty & Beau’s Coffee creates a path for people with disabilities to become more valued, accepted, and included in every community—a sentiment SCC’s ACE program also holds.
Turner voiced, “It was my first time to Bitty and Beau’s, and it was such a humbling experience. Seeing these wonderful individuals thrive in the workplace (when many places probably wouldn’t even offer them the opportunity) made my heart smile. It was such a fabulous experience, and I will surely be returning. It also gave us an opportunity to see how a real coffee shop operates and some tips we can incorporate into the Viking Perk.”
Managed by the ACE program, The Viking Perk Coffee Shop first opened in February 2023 as part of SCC’s Warren Student Center. Serving from 7:45AM-9:30AM on Tuesdays and Thursdays, ACE students provide a wide-array of morning staples to faculty and staff on campus. The funds raised through the Viking Perk allow the students to take field trips, while also learning customer service and business skills. It looks to reopen again at the start of the Fall 2023 semester in August.
“It was such a great day,” concluded Turner. “The best part, in my opinion, was getting to see the awe and excitement through their eyes. Many of us take for granted that Wilmington is just a few miles down the road—it’s just another place to us—but to our students, it was a true adventure. The majority of the class had never been to the Battleship or to Bitty & Beau’s. We cannot wait for our next adventure. Lastly, I can’t forget to thank each and every person who has supported the Viking Perk. Your purchases help make these trips possible. Thank you!”
About Sampson Community College:
Sampson Community College is a member of the North Carolina Community College System, located in Clinton, NC in Sampson County. The college offers many programs to include two-year degrees, college transfer, continuing education and workforce development options and early college education. SCC is committed to the principles of equal educational and employment opportunities for all.