Pierson Middle School Special Education students took a field trip to South Fork Bakery on Nov. 15. The students met with the owner of the bakery, Shirley Ruch, and some employees of the establishment.
South Fork Bakery, which operates out of Scoville Hall in Amagansett, started around the need to build meaningful employment opportunities for adults with disabilities on the South Fork. Ruch, a speech and language pathologist practicing for over 30 years with a private practice in Sag Harbor, specializes in working with children with autism. When Ruch realized many of her former students after graduating college or aging out of high school were facing a common issue of finding employment, she founded South Fork Bakery in 2016. In 2018, the bakery became a nonprofit.
“The students were incredibly excited for this trip,” explained the trip supervisor and Sag Harbor District occupational therapist, Tracy Evans. “This was a wonderful opportunity for our students to meet with and observe other young adults living with special needs and how they've found success and happiness working in an environment that supports and celebrates their differences.”
The students embarked on a private tour of the packaging room, kitchen, and storage room led by Ruch herself. Ruch explained the process of making delicious baked goods, as well as the mission and purpose of South Fork Bakery. Currently, there are 16 adults with special needs who have found a community in South Fork Bakery, including a Pierson alum who has been with the bakery since day one. The Bakery provides its products to more than 50 local stores, farm stands, farmers’ markets, and festivals from Montauk to Syosset.
Students asked questions and took a "snack break" with chocolate brownies, mint brownies, and blondies offered by Ruch. “I believe as a result of this trip the students felt a sense of belonging and perhaps a sense of worth,” said Evans.
Sag Harbor UFSD special education teachers, Megan Pastier and Justin Clinton, teaching assistants Erin White and Kendell Thommen, and physical therapist Megan Lui all worked with Evans to put together this meaningful trip. Thanks to Ruch, the field trip offered students a glance into an environment where they could see others feel respected for who they are and valued for their contributions.
Photo caption: Pierson Middle School students, Shane Hartstein, Reily Simbana, and Clash Zamora took a field trip to South Fork Bakery and met with the business owner, Shirley Ruch.