City-Wide Program Students Run ACHS Coffee Shop
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There is no doubt that a morning cup of coffee can serve as a pick-me-up. Similarly, the Kick! coffee shop within Alexandria City High School (ACHS) provides an uplifting opportunity for students with disabilities in the City-Wide program to get hands-on work experience as they hone their skills. The coffee shop is part of their career prep class during the first period of the day and helps the students learn and carry out all aspects involved in running a cafe.
Career Prep Teacher Sally Schneider says the students make all the drinks and set up stations for cold and hot beverages including iced tea, lemonade, hot chocolate and, of course, coffee. The students also work the front counter, make deliveries, clean up and take inventory. Schneider added that, this year, the program has teamed up with students from a general education population class to help with set up and deliveries.
“There are so many skills that we take for granted that students learn by working in the coffee shop,” Schneider explained. Schneider said students get the opportunity to interact with the school community while developing their soft skills. “They practice making eye contact, following directions with minimal prompting, task completion, greeting customers and taking orders.” At the same time, the students sharpen their hard skills of making drinks, set up and clean up. Developing these vocational skills can then transfer to jobs within the community.
“Society has a tendency to look at the disabilities but we focus on our students’ abilities,” Schneider said, adding the students are thrilled when presented with hands-on experiences. Every student is required to carry out all the jobs within the shop in order to get them out of their comfort zone and discover and demonstrate their capabilities. “You can see them grow confident with every drink they make and deliver.”
The Kick! is so much more than a coffee shop, as it provides opportunities for its student staff while also enriching the lives of the general education students as they see how much their fellow students can do, and not focus on their disabilities. “I have students who choose to work with my class as a peer mentor because they want to be part of this community of students,” Schneider said. The experience is mutually uplifting for Schneider. “To work with this group of students, to see their hearts, to share in their growth, is beyond words.”
The Kick! is open Monday through Thursday, 9-9:45 a.m. Deliveries are made throughout the ACHS King Street location with a customer window next to the auditorium. Orders can be made online. Proceeds go toward inventory and maintenance of the coffee shop.
- Alexandria City High School