By Angela Higginbotham

Mandarin Middle School is focused on giving students the necessary tools to reach their full potential. Students with special needs at Mandarin Middle benefit from the school’s efforts to maintain academic excellence and exceptional growth opportunities. The school conducts monthly community-based instruction trips to teach these students how to interact in social situations, learn new skills and expose them to possible job opportunities in the future. Mandarin Middle also provides a life skills lab where students learn activities important to daily living such as cooking, cleaning, laundry and math skills.

On Nov. 17, 15 of the students visited the McDonald’s at 11230 Old St. Augustine Road. While there, the McDonald’s crew gave them a tour of the kitchen and spoke to the students about the restaurant’s food preparation. The students enjoyed a number of activities while on location; Ronald McDonald made a special appearance and performed a magic show for the students.

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“We love hosting student groups in our restaurant and showing them how the McDonald’s business operates,” said David Mullins, Jr., owner/operator of the McDonald’s restaurant that hosted the group of students. “Our managers and crew thoroughly enjoyed the time spent with the students, and we hope they learned a lot from their visit.”

Ronna Murphy, registered nurse at Mandarin Middle, plays a large role in the effort to keep these special students engaged and excited to learn valuable life skills.

“We take these students to a lot of different places. Places where they can order and pay for their own food and places that give them a tour and talk about job skills. It’s important that they are encouraged to do their best and that they are excited about their future,” Murphy said.

Some families have difficulty funding these trips to restaurants and other adventures, such as an upcoming trip to the Jacksonville Zoo. Murphy, teachers and able parents put forth their own money to provide supplies for the students to make items to sell as fundraisers.

“There are 25 – 30 kids in sixth through eighth grade who benefit from these learning trips. The biggest challenge is money. If there is no funding or donations, then we buy the supplies, so that the students can raise money to fund their activities,” Murphy said.

If you are interested in helping the special needs program at Mandarin Middle School, contact Ronna Murphy at or (904) 292-0555 ext 178.

Photo courtesy Mandarin Middle School


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