Coffee Cart Project Teaches Students Skills

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Through the generosity of a grant from the Suffield Foundation for Excellent Schools, and collaboration between Allison Daly, special education teacher, and Morgan O’Malley, special education paraprofessional, the Coffee Cart project was established in 2017 at Suffield High School.

The purpose of this project was to provide students with disabilities hands-on experiences with specific tasks related to employment skills. Each morning, teachers and staff have the opportunity to order coffee, tea, hot chocolate and pastries through an online ordering form. Students in Allison’s class check, fulfill and deliver orders three times throughout the day. Items cost $1 each and faculty and staff are billed monthly for their orders. Along with running the daily operations of the coffee cart, students also have opportunities to assist with billing, accounting, inventory and shopping for products. All supplies and equipment were purchased for the coffee cart using grant funds, and it has been self-sustaining ever since.

The students look forward to completing their jobs each morning; as one student commented,“I like to deliver it. It makes me feel cool. When they put in the order and we make it, I want to make sure they are trusting us to prepare it how they want it. I like to deliver it because I want to see people’s reaction to it. It makes me feel happy!”

Last school year, Morgan O’Malley carried on the Coffee Cart project in her position as a Special Education Teacher at Suffield Middle School. Modeled to mirror the high school Coffee Cart set up, the project uses embedded strategies to increase student independence. The students who participate are learning important employment skills that they will use both at the high school and into their future.

The students are learning executive functioning, vocational and social skills. Similar to the high school the students are responsible for making and delivering coffee, but also for running the business. This includes sending out monthly bills to the teachers by analyzing spreadsheets, as well as depositing the money earned and keeping track of the accounts. The Coffee Cart also provides opportunities for meaningful interactions with students in other grade levels. Recently, the Suffield Middle School students joined the students at the high school to assist in delivering coffee. One student said,“I liked delivering the coffee to teachers. I learned and met new teachers, and it’s going to help me when I go there.”

Through continued support from the Suffield Foundation for Excellent Schools, both A. Ward Spaulding and McAlister Intermediate Schools will also be adopting the Coffee Cart project, providing students at the elementary level with similar vocational opportunities. Staff at both schools will be able to place beverage orders and students will be responsible for taking orders, preparing orders, and delivering beverages to staff. We are so appreciative of the support from SFES and our staff and students who have kept the project running. One teacher commented, “The coffee cart is a highlight of my week! I am so happy to see my friends and enjoy the warm coffee they deliver with such smiles!”

Another teacher remarked,“I’m always excited to hear the knock on the door and seeing a new student each time delivering the caffeine jolt I seriously need. Although masked, it is clear students are eager to please with a smile, and student created pay stubs left in my mailbox contribute to a full circle, student centered educational program that I am sure they look forward to as much as I do!”

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