A Little Something Extra Ice Cream to Serve at UA Game Days in Tuscaloosa, Alabama
A Little Something Extra Ice Cream, a food truck specializing in sweet treats, will be a regular fixture on the University of Alabama campus this fall, allowing a very special young man to finally attend college, in his own way.
Michelle Norwood started the ice cream business in 2018 in Dekalb County as a way to provide a job opportunity for her 20-year-old son Hunter, who was born with Down syndrome. She said the food truck's name, "Something Extra," is a playful reference to the extra chromosome that causes Down syndrome.
"He's very tech-savvy, and he's fascinated with the weather," Norwood said. "He loves being with friends and loves being a leader. We named him the 'CEO' of the truck. This has been a very empowering situation for him, and it's given him a lot of confidence."
Since the ice cream truck first opened, Norwood has used her skills as a special education teacher to train up more than 20 young adults with different disabilities to work in the ice cream truck. Through an annual training program, these students learn everything from product knowledge to social skills, eventually earning a badge and certificate that allows them to work in the truck.
Norwood explained the truck's purpose is multifaceted: to promote advocacy, provide opportunity and raise awareness.
She also announced in late June that she has signed a contract with the University to sell ice cream on the Quad at all Crimson Tide home football games this fall.
"Hunter has always wanted to go to college," Norwood said. "His older sister Hope is a student at Auburn, and his younger brother Brody is still a sophomore. He's had desires to do the same things as his siblings. Although this isn't traditionally how he thought he'd be doing it, he's finally going to college! If you ask me, an SEC game day is one of the best college experiences you can get."
Hunter has used his experience in the truck to fill in the gaps that he encounters in his life when he's unable to do some tasks and activities that may come naturally to neurotypical people. Norwood told The Thread that this ice cream truck allows Hunter and all the other workers to maintain relationships with countless people and show ability within any disability.
Norwood is extremely proud of her certified "Ice Cream Experts" as they continue to prove that perceived limitations will not hold them back from showing strength in other areas.
As Something Extra has grown over the years, it has earned opportunities for partnerships of all sorts. With this contract to serve on UA's campus, that also helps forge a relationship with CrossingPoints, an organization at the University geared toward those with intellectual disabilities.
CrossingPoints helps give those with learning disabilities a college experience, as well as teaches them employment and independent living skills. Those enrolled in this program will have the opportunity to work in the truck on game days.
Norwood said a portion of the proceeds earned from game days will be donated back to the program to help provide scholarships. This is because students cannot receive loans for these sorts of programs, meaning much of the financial burden falls back on families.
It's opportunities like this that mean so much to the team at A Little Something Extra, providing a gateway to expand their outreach and impact countless more lives, both inside and outside of the truck.
"It's super humbling for those at the University to have not only opened their hearts and doors, but their game days for us to share our mission," Norwood said.