CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A brand new place to grab a bite and a little caffeine boost is changing lives. This is a story about resilience and opportunity.
It can be a little nerve-wracking, the first day of work at a new job. But Alana Yanes of Clarksville was ready for it. She also has down syndrome.
"What I do is just greet people," Alana said with a smile. "I get to know them a little bit better. They order some food, maybe a drink. Do you know what? I love working here."
The truth is this is a milestone day in Alana's story. It's a day mom Becky had to capture on her phone.
"She has been my warrior child," said Becky. "Part of having down syndrome is a lot of health problems. When she was born, she had holes in her heart. She's had 15 surgeries including open heart. She's fought tooth and nail. Whatever is thrown at her, she just overcomes it. You tell her she can't do something, she's like, 'you watch this, I'm gonna do it.'"
"I decide my future," said Alana.
That's where Melanie Deskin and Margaret Davis of the Progressive Directions Inc. nonprofit came in.
"We support adults with developmental disabilities," said Deskin.
"We work for them to have a job, to have independent living skills, community integration," Davis added.
With the support of the city of Clarksville and Montgomery County, Progressive Directions Inc. has just opened Common Ground Cafe. Paid interns like Alana work with the team for nine weeks.
"They come here to learn job skills," said Deskin.
"We'll be assisting them in locating a job in the community," said Davis.
"There's something about this place that feels like another home," Alana said.
The people at Common Ground Cafe are proud to be part of this.
"People who are discriminated against in the workforce get a chance to have an independent life," said one employee working with the interns.
The proudest person of all was the mom capturing this milestone day.
"It's one of many, absolutely one of many, and that will never, ever change," said Becky. "I look forward to seeing what she'll accomplish in this world."
Common Ground Cafe is open on weekdays from 7 a.m. until 2:30 in the afternoon. It is located in Veterans Plaza, 350 Pageant Lane, Suite 102 in Clarksville, TN 37040.