Since it opened in January, the Bobcat Beverages Coffee House at Grandview Heights High School has done booming business every Friday morning.
"It gets really crazy just after the bell rings (at 8 a.m.)," said Brandon Theiss, intervention specialist. "We'll usually get 60 to 70 students coming in."
The shop, operated in the concession stand outside the high school gym, is run by four special-education students from Theiss' class.
His students are providing a service to their schoolmates, but also benefiting from the chance to practice skills they learn in class in an authentic, real-world setting, Theiss said.
"A lot of our academic focus (in his class) is on reading and math in terms of using those skills as we would in everyday life," Theiss said. "Reading messages, reading email, making change, understanding prices and the values of things -- they are using all of those skills operating the coffeehouse."
In addition to practicing the academic skills they learn in class, the students also benefit by gaining inclusion and confidence from their interaction with customers, he said.
Bobcat Beverages opens each Friday at 7:40 a.m. and closes about 8:45 a.m. The students working at the shop are supervised by Theiss and paraprofessional Carrie O'Mara.
"The neat thing about this program is that the coffee shop is totally student-run," Theiss said. "From ordering the supplies to marketing to serving our customers and cleaning up, it's all up to them."
The students sell cookies, brownies and other treats they bake in the learning lab at Edison Intermediate/Larson Middle School, he said.
Every other Friday, the shop sells doughnuts from DK Diner.
Students and teachers also may purchase snacks, bottled water and other beverages along with their cups of joe.
The coffeehouse program is an expansion of the beverage-delivery service that began three years ago.
Each Wednesday, teachers order beverages that students from Theiss' class deliver to their classrooms.
"That was working so well, we wanted to find a way to evolve it," he said.
"One of reasons this project is working so well is the buy-in we've had from the district, from the superintendent, administrators and staff, our high school students and from the community," Theiss said.
"I think the rest of our students really appreciate having this service available on Friday mornings," he said. "A lot of them don't eat breakfast before they come to school. First-period study hall teachers will let their students come down to the coffee shop after they check in the morning."
Students have offered suggestions and requests for additions to the coffeehouse menu.
"I had one student ask if we could start offering homemade waffles," Theiss said. "I said, 'Hey, I don't get waffles at home.' "
Senior Ben Kelley and junior Sofia Longoria are regular Bobcat Beverages customers.
"It's a really cool activity for students," Kelley said. "It's nice to know you can come here on a Friday morning and get something to eat or a cup of coffee to start the day."
"I often don't eat breakfast before I get to school, especially on a Friday, so I'm really glad they started the coffeehouse," Longoria said. "You can meet with the friends and the jazz band's usually playing (in the nearby band classroom), so it's just a great atmosphere."
On a recent Friday morning, sophomore Olivia Gamele was serving cappuccino and mocha frappuccino to customers.
"Sometimes I'll do this, but usually I'm working as the cashier," she said. "It's a lot of fun. I like seeing my friends and I like seeing how much people like what we do. We get a lot of compliments."
The most challenging part of operating a coffee shop is handling the rush of customers, Gamele said.
"You have to be quick," she said. "The biggest worry is that you're going to spill something or get an order wrong. You just have to be quick and fast."
Eighth-grader Ethan Elliot said he likes "being the middleman" in the business.
"I like pouring the coffee and handing the drinks off" to be served to customers, he said.
Helping to run the coffeehouse is both work and fun, Elliot said.
"I like being responsible and working hard," he said.