Thursday, November 30, 2023

School buzz: New coffee cart teaches life skills

Mineral Independent | May 10, 2023 12:00 AM

The sweet aromas of espresso grounds and the whistling of milk frothing will now be permeating the halls of Superior High School.

It's all thanks to the newly named and established Catfeine Cart, provided through the school's special education program and made possible by a quarterly vocational rehabilitation grant. This new mobile caffeine cart will not only bring an extra shot of energy to staff and students during the day, but it will also deliver valuable work experience to the students passing the cups.

Bridgett Kovalsky is the 7-12 grade special education teacher.

“I have wanted to implement a coffee cart for a few years but wasn't sure where to start. I talked with a few other schools that have a coffee cart to get some ideas and decided to take the leap this year,” she explained.

“The students were involved in picking out the cart and espresso machine to get it going. It has been a really fun process!”

They started ordering supplies and the cart back in October, and it took some time for the espresso machine to arrive and get installed. Things finally got up and brewing in March.

“This program is only for the special ed students. It is to help them gain several skills they need for the workforce. They are learning customer service skills along with how to count money back,” Kovalsky remarked. “It has been fun to watch these students get out of their comfort zone and talk with other students and staff in the school. It has strengthened their confidence and they are really proud of what they can do.”

One of those students and newly trained baristas is junior India Smith. She will be one of four high school students to be working the new coffee stand.

She shared, “I feel like it kind of prepares teens for their first job, it's something people can look forward to in the mornings.”

Being trained on how to make certain drink orders has gone smoothly for Smith, she noted. “I don't think there's anything difficult to it once you have everything down.”

She added the hardest part might be “frothing the milk because it gets really hot and sometimes spills everywhere.”

Her favorite drink would be a white chocolate raspberry latte. Smith said she’ll need “more knowledge on coffee names and what's in it so I know what people are ordering.”

Outside of school she also works at Darlow’s, and stated, “I learn things really quickly and I'm really good under pressure, I can work fast, and I'm decent at cleaning.”

The Catfeine Cart will operate on Wednesdays and Thursdays during first period. They will be open to serve all the staff in the junior high, high school, and elementary, as well as junior high and high school students. The menu will consist of mochas, lattes, chais, and lotus drinks. The flavored syrups will be sugar-free.

Drink orders will be taken up until the first bell in the mornings using a paper form indicating the type of drink they want, their name, and which class they are in.

Kovalsky explained, “The students then make and deliver the coffee during first period. We have a nice assembly line that makes it easy for them. One will get the cups ready; another will make the drink and two will deliver the drinks to the customers.”

The students who are a part of Kovalsky’s life skills class will be able to work the coffee cart.

She stated, “I will rotate these kids each year to give the learning experience to as many students on my caseload that I can. They are taught how to apply for a job, interview for a job and fill out hiring paperwork. After the students are hired, I take them, along with a parent, to the bank to open up checking accounts.”

The students are paid $10 an hour to work the cart, which comes from the grant funding.

In life skills class students also calculated how much each drink would cost as well as the profit from each sale. Kovalsky said, “The money that we earn goes back into purchasing more products to keep the cart going. The students are also responsible for figuring out what products we are low on and ordering them.”

Kovalsky was fortunate to have elementary music teacher, Jens Jacobson, who used to be a barista, teach her how to make drinks.

She detailed, “I then was able to teach what I learned to the students. I also had Kaila Frawley, a previous owner of the local coffee hut by Town Pump volunteer her time to come train the students.”

With the school year winding down the Catfeine Cart will be open for just a few more weeks before summer break.

But Kovalsky noted, “They will have a better chance to gain future employment having experience with specific skills. They may even work at our local coffee shops during the summers with this learning experience.”

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