Turner Coffee Bar serves hot drinks and warm smiles
TOWN OF BELOIT — It was organized chaos as students bounced around the room making coffee.
Eighth-grader Hayli Field added ingredients to the blender for her iced coffees, while eighth-grader Cris Carrillo prepared the frothy goodness for the hot drinks.
Around the “apartment” classroom, other young baristas in teacher Samantha Streich's cognitive disabilities class at Turner Middle/High School matched bags of treats with orders and prepared tea and hot chocolate.
“They just really live for this every Friday,” Streich said.
The Turner Coffee Bar serves up hot and cold drinks and a different snack each week to faculty and staff at the middle and high schools and district office. The student-run business delivers every Friday, but the students prepare all week by taking orders, baking desserts, preparing ingredients and grocery shopping.
Streich's goal for the program is to make the students as independent as possible within any environment.
On Mondays, they tape menus to the staff doors. They pick them up on Wednesday. They bake the snacks in their daily living class. On Thursdays, cups and lids are counted, and preparations are made for the big day: Friday.
Staff members say the kids provide “their Friday delight,” Streich said.
Sometimes they do deliveries on their own, including handling the money, she said.
“They're very, very independent, which is huge for them. That's a waitressing or waiter job that just opened up for them, or running a cash register,” she said. “It's great to see them being able to do this as independently as they are.”
Sixth-grader Noah Boatman sorted and delivered the orders from a cart to the middle school office staff, ending at the desk of Principal Cory Everson, who paid for all the coffees.
“Noah, you're the best!” Everson told Noah, who returned to his teacher and the money box with a $10 bill for the $5.25 order. Streich worked with him to make the change, and Noah later returned from Everson's office waving a $1 tip.
“Happy coffee bar day!” he said with a big smile.
The revenue from the coffee bar pays for supplies and groceries, and students go grocery shopping every other week. The tips students receive go into a fund for field trips, though the kids also have made donations to worthy causes.
Hayli poured ingredients into a blender for her iced coffee orders, a job she's been doing since sixth grade. She has the recipe memorized, but the group didn't want to give away their secret ingredients. They decided to call it the “house recipe,” Streich said.
Hayli poured her creations into cups while ninth-grader Eugene Campton followed to secure lids and take them to the delivery cart.
Students wrapped up deliveries at about 10 a.m., when the classroom is a flurry of dish cleaning and tidying up.
“My favorite thing is trying to make my customers happy,” Hayli said.