GREENFIELD — Beware Starbucks. There’s new competition in town and it’s hard to beat service with a smile.
Every weekday morning around 9 a.m., a group of life skills students from Greenfield-Central High School loads a coffee cart with hot drinks and bagels and heads for the halls, delivering personalized orders directly at the doors of the teachers. The students make another round of deliveries in
in the afternoon, often with sweet treats like brownies or cookies they baked themselves.
The Functional Academics class is made up of students with mild to severe disabilities. Running the coffee cart teaches them responsibility and instills a sense of confidence in them, said their teacher, Emily Weaver, who accompanies them on their daily coffee rounds.
Michael Annarino, 16, was all smiles Wednesday morning as he handed a bagel to radio and television professor Bill McKenna, who places an order every day.
“I don’t eat breakfast before work, so having a bagel is fine, but I especially love seeing the kids hang out,” McKenna said, as he prepared to sip his morning java.
Despite being non-verbal, 18-year-old Abi Caudill took money from McKenna as he instructed her on how to make changes.
Learning to make change and manage money is a big part of what students learn about business management, said Weaver, who launched the coffee cart concept earlier this school year, in building on an idea she learned about through a Facebook group for education teachers.
“They learn so much from this experience,” said Weaver, who enjoys seeing her students’ sense of independence grow.
Managing the coffee cart teaches them much more than just money management, she said.
“They’re learning independent life skills, job skills, communication skills and even academics,” the teacher said, as a team of students prepared to fill orders Wednesday morning.
Every day, teachers across the school have the opportunity to place an order online. A few students check orders each morning while others make coffee, toast bagels, and fill the cart with trail mix, sodas, and other goodies. Two or three students are chosen to make the deliveries each day.
Students receive some help from general education students who participate in the Functional Academics classroom experience, which teaches students with disabilities the life skills needed to succeed on their own.
Teachers can order hot or iced coffee, hot chocolate, apple cider or soda. In addition to drinks, they can also order snacks such as bagels, fruit bars and donuts.
Abi could barely contain his excitement as his classmates prepared Wednesday’s orders, shouting and shaking his hand enthusiastically.
A handful of teachers and students greeted her by name as she pushed the wheeled cart through the hallways while her teammate, Destiny Buja, read orders to see which room to stop in next.
While the coffee cart is only available to teachers, Weaver considered expanding the business to allow students to place orders as well.
Money earned from selling drinks and snacks supports the program, said the teacher, who is delighted to see how running the coffee cart has taught her students life skills.
“The list of things they learn could go on and on,” she said. “They work on reading and writing by filling out forms, reading labels, preparing drinks and food, measuring certain amounts of food, locating rooms around the school and communicating with clients.”
Learning these skills is part of a larger range of things Weaver teaches every day in life skills classes.
Students are given various tasks and assignments in class and earn class dollars for completing them. They then learn how to budget their money to simulate running a household and paying bills.
“It teaches them to be independent,” said Weaver, who started teaching high school in 2014.
As she helped Michael put a bagel in the toaster on Wednesday, 19-year-old Destiny said managing the coffee cart was one of her favorite parts of class.
“It’s great to make people coffee,” she said, punching Michael as they prepared to load the cart with the day’s orders.
Jason Cary, principal of Greenfield-Central High School, calls the coffee cart a huge success.
“It was a wonderful experience for our students. This real-world experience is perfect for them and we are very happy with how it has been received,” he said.