The halls of Richfield High School hold a place for learning, laughter, new technology, good food, student artwork and music. After the bell rings, and students and teachers are learning in classrooms, there is another daily visitor: the coffee cart, run by students in the Compass work-based learning program!
The Compass program is Richfield High School's center-based developmental cognitive disabilities (DCD) program, and serves students in grades 9-12 with developmental disabilities. The idea to create a coffee cart was a collaboration between the RHS special education work-based learning and business departments. Although the idea was visualized in 2019, COVID-19 put it on hold and it finally opened officially during the 2021-22 school year.
“The coffee from this place is the best thing about the day,” said full-time substitute teacher John Meeker. “I get to meet other students that I might not meet otherwise.”
“One of my favorite parts of the coffee cart is that it's an opportunity for student leadership and peer mentorship,” said Callen McInnes, our work-based learning coordinator. “We have students with developmental disabilities who participate in the Compass program, general education students from business education classes and DECA, and students from my work strategies classes all working together for this project!”
Responsibilities vary each day, but part of the job of the work strategies and business education students is to partner with the Compass students for classroom coffee, hot chocolate or tea deliveries around the school. Teachers can purchase their beverages as a one-time delivery, but most of them participate in the “subscription” delivery service, receiving an order every day the coffee cart is open!
Paraprofessional Brenda Biever says that she has seen students forming relationships and learning new things because of the coffee cart. “Most of the students have never made coffee before, or tea. We also help them create invoices, give change and use Apple Pay and the Square system, which is an important experience to share with prospective employers.” In addition, the coffee cart gives students practice interacting with others and learning customer service.
Thinking about a Compass student and regular coffee cart volunteer, Brenda said, “Before we started the coffee cart he was very introverted, and now he actually says hi to people and is more comfortable with eye contact and greeting people. I’ve seen him coming out of his shell.”
Funds raised from the coffee cart since it opened have gone back into the program to purchase new supplies. They also received money from a Federal Perkins Grant that helped them get the program off the ground by purchasing coffee machines, uniforms, etc. As the program grows and they raise more funds, they will put the money toward funding new work-based learning opportunities for students.
New this year! Want to send your child’s favorite teacher a “thank you” beverage? The coffee cart staff are now offering gift purchases of coffee for staff members. Purchase through the link below to have coffee, tea or hot chocolate delivered to the staff member(s) of your choosing during first hour. This is a great way to support our staff and support the students working at the coffee cart in building employment skills.