New coffee service blends students' talents
New Albany High School sophomore Allyson Backiewicz loves to pour coffee.
She and four other special-needs students run Eagles Special Blend, a coffee shop established as part of a vocational project at the high school. The coffee shop serves faculty members, and it is designed to give the students hands-on experience running a business.
Intervention specialist Amy Simpson said the five students in her special-needs class are at different levels and each has his or her own strengths.
"They're all special in their own unique areas and as a blend, they can be very successful," Simpson said.
Simpson said the vocational project, called Grounds For Hope, has a logo designed by junior Abbie Skowron, one of the high school peer buddies who volunteers in the class.
The students working at Eagles Special Blend have an efficient system for filling orders, which are posted online.
Backiewicz and senior Sarah Fink fill each cup with one of three flavored syrups, add cream and sugar on request, then pour in the coffee or other available hot beverage.
Junior Levi Goldsberry finishes each cup by putting on the lid before freshman Christian Brockert delivers the coffee.
Freshman James Smoyer completes the process by taking the money and making change for customers.
"The idea was to try and make it a vocational focus so that our students -- while in high school -- can experience skills for competitive employment and be successful outside the classroom," Simpson said.
The students started taking orders from high school staff members and delivering Eagles Special Blend on April 1.
Simpson said her goal is to open the coffee shop to the high school student body by the next school year.
The shop serves hot chocolate, three different types of hot tea and coffee.
Simpson said the initial products for the coffee shop were donated by the Kroger Co., Target and Giant Eagle. Parents also helped by providing money and equipment, such as a refrigerator.
Brockert's mother, Jana, said the shop provides a wonderful opportunity for the students and her son, who is autistic.
She said the family moved to New Albany from Meigs County last year so their son could be involved in projects such as Grounds For Hope.
"We moved for programs like this and it's been wonderful," said Brockert's father, Jon.
Simpson said the students learn how to work at a business, reading written instructions and following them to complete the orders.
The students accept money, maintain a budget and pay bills for the shop. They also learn social skills by delivering to other parts of the school in the mornings.
Simpson said Eagles Special Blend is the high school's second vocational program.
Intervention specialist Debbie Martin opened the high school copy center in 2011, where six students sort mail and make copies for teachers by a given deadline. They also staple and laminate the copies, as requested.
Martin said the copy center teaches students math, reading and comprehension and social skills.
"It's real work in a safe and supervised setting," Simpson said.