Pizza is part of the curriculum

LANSINGBURGH – Jimmy’s Pizza on Fifth Avenue in Lansingburgh has been slicing up pies for 42 years, lately however they’ve been delivering much more than just pizza to the community.

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The students show up every week, always on time, always thrilled to be standing and working inside the hot pizza kitchen doing vital prep work that keeps business cooking at Jimmy’s

Russell Holman and Kaimere Bullard are special education students at Lansingburgh High School who look forward to their classroom kitchen assignments which are part of the Functioning Life Skills curriculum.

“Sometimes I like to help Jimmy and Jerry and do the dough and put the dough into the tray,” said Holman, “I love to make a huge pepperoni pizza.”

Michelle Burkhart is a special education teacher in the Lansingburgh School District. Ever since Jimmy’s opened their door — and their hearts — to her students, she’s noticed a big difference.

“They’re always in school when it’s their Jimmy’s day. They don’t want to miss that day,” Burkhart said, “That’s the first thing they tell me when they get off the bus. It’s my day to work at Jimmy’s and they can’t wait to get there.”

Jimmy’s owner Tony Buchanan, who has a son with special needs, already understood the importance of these kids interacting with others, developing social skills and learning lifetime skills that make them more employable.

“A lot of kids like this might say to themselves I’m never going to be able to work,” Buchanan said, “I’m never going to be able to have a job but they’re doing some tasks that my regular employees do and who knows, maybe one of the will be wearing a Jimmy’s shirt when the graduate from high school and I hire them full time.”

“They’re helping me and I’m helping them but just being able to see kids like this with a smile on their face enjoy coming here, and every time when they leave, they say we’ll see you next week,” Buchanan added.

Burkhart says even though other area businesses are involved in the program, with pizza as an incentive, Jimmy’s is by far the most popular classroom for her students.