Slice of Opportunity: Grafton Students Craft Their Futures in Local Community

It is a partnership that started almost a decade ago. It is a partnership that started with a family-owned business and Grafton’s Career and Technical Education [CTE] classroom. It is a partnership that gives students the opportunity to work in the local community, gain real-world experience, and enjoy a slice of happiness.

Claudio’s Pizzeria, owned by Claudio and Debbie Buono and currently under the management of their son, Tommy, provides Grafton’s students with thousands of to-go containers and bags to apply stickers adoring the business’ logo, a task that sounds simple in nature but is meaningful in practice.

“It’s so helpful because in our down time what we would be doing is stickering hundreds of bags and plastic boxes,” said Tommy, who has been managing Claudio’s for close to five years. “For that to be one less thing on our plate and have them pre-stickered, we can focus on customers. It’s been really nice having them.”

Bryan Teeter, who leads the CTE class at Grafton’s Ruth Birch School, said the experience the students are gaining by working with Claudio’s, along with other local businesses in the area, is invaluable as they begin to think about life after Grafton.

Twice a week Teeter picks up to-go containers, stickers, and bags from Claudio’s and brings them back to the classroom for the students to assemble. On the back wall of his classroom, there is a bulletin board with a display of all the bags and boxes showcasing where the stickers should be placed. The students put them together like trained experts, oftentimes helping each other to make sure they are placed correctly. 

Teeter believes CTE classes are invaluable and provide students with opportunities when others may not be afforded to them, noting many vocational careers are overlooked. Recently, he instructed his students on the benefits of how all the skills they are gaining in the classroom will translate to a resume for their future career aspirations.

“I think trades in general are huge,” he said. “Everyone thinks that you need to go to college, you need to do four years of school and master’s programs…these kids may not have the opportunity to obtain a bachelor’s degree or go to Graduate school later down the line. This gives them the opportunity to have that feeling of motivation.”

Crystal Ranker, Principal of Grafton’s Ruth Birch School, not only praised Claudio’s for providing the students with the chance to gain real-world experience and grow valuable skills, but for their overwhelming compassion and generosity for all students at Grafton.

“Claudio’s never hesitates to support us with meals for special events or classroom celebrations,” she said. “They often offer discounts or will donate items. Their generosity and support are tremendous and really impact our students.”

Buono said the donations to Grafton students are given without a second thought. “I feel like we’re reaping the benefits a lot from what they do and so I think it’s the least we can do.”

Ranker said Claudio’s provides much more than food for the students at Grafton. “Claudio’s provides a safe and understanding environment for our students to learn,” she said. “The opportunities that are provided by Claudio’s for our students are meaningful and provide experience our students can benefit from beyond our walls.”

The partnership is one that has allowed students at Grafton to work in their local community. It is a partnership that gives students the chance to build their future. And it is a partnership that both parties want to continue long after the last slice of pizza has been shared!

“Thank you to Grafton and we look forward to continuing the partnership,” said Buono.