Students in special ed classes gain real-world skills while making, selling & delivering coffee to staff each morning

Students in special education classes at Huron, Pioneer, and Skyline high schools learn real-life skills every morning by selling coffee to staff, then preparing it and delivering it to them.

Teachers say it’s a way for students to gain self-confidence while performing a service and earning a bit of money for supplies as well as fun events.

Nicole Pilkins, one of the teachers in the self-contained classroom program at Huron High School that runs the River Coffee Cart Crew, explained that students work a variety of jobs, including the cleaning crew, baristas who stock and make the coffee and tea, online order takers, and those who deliver each morning to staff who’ve signed up for a hot beverage.

“Our goal is to really set it up like a business so our students are well-rounded, and they get experience in all aspects,” said Pilkins. “We also take it further and create more of a cross-curricular program with it, where in their math classes, students work on a profit analysis where we can really see how much money we’re making versus how much we’re having to put towards our products. So we really get to see what profits the coffee shop is making.”

Profits are used in various ways to benefit the students, including field trips of their choice and a pizza party at the end of the year.

About a dozen Huron staff members buy a beverage at least a couple of times a week, while a few are on the daily list.

At Pioneer, special ed teacher John Conley noted that his students, in addition to running the coffee delivery program, have been working with business students at the Pioneer shop making cookies and helping stock the shelves and clean up as part of the Community-Based instruction program.

“It really helps with their life skills, and what they’re going to be working on in the future once they get through high school,” he said.

And at Skyline, special ed teacher Hannah Lim explained that her students in the self-contained classroom run the LifeSkills school cafe open to all staff, selling drinks and breakfast foods.

“This is a really good opportunity for our students to practice working with their money skills, interacting with others, but also helping them gain those job skills they’ll need for the future,” she said.

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