On-campus cafe teaching students a career-skills latte – Shaw Local
There’s something wonderful brewing at Lockport Township High School and it’s not just coffee.
The L-Town Grounds Cafe on East Campus, which officially cut the ribbon on January 20, also offers career and vocational skills for students who need hands-on instruction.
Angela Huntington, director of special education, said the cafe also held a soft opening in November for staff and seniors and plans to serve juniors by Valentine’s Day and sophomores from spring break here.
The cafe provides “a real live-training opportunity” for students with post-secondary employment goals, Huntington said.
“It’s hard to do while [COVID-19] and in the community,” Huntington said. “So we needed a training lab right here on campus.”
Planning started last year. Huntington said the media center was being renovated and the thought was, “Wouldn’t it be a good idea to serve coffee near our media center?”
“If you walk around the school on any given morning, you’ll see students walking in with their Starbucks coffee or their Dunkin’ Donuts coffee — it’s kind of a culture,” Huntington said.
But where to put the coffee? Especially since a source of water was needed.
“We worked closely with our architects,” Huntington said, “and converted a mop closet and bathroom.”
Staff also spoke with schools who also ran functional businesses, former restorers and the architects’ restoration expert, Huntington said.
“And then we took all of these great ideas and made sure we had them in our store,” Huntington said.
For example, the barista machine is similar to one used by McDonald’s, Huntington said. It was expensive – and worth it.
“We wanted to make sure the tools could be used for a long time and that our students would be successful using them,” Huntington said.
Several trainers have taken courses to get their catering and sanitation license because someone with this license must be on site when the cafe is open, which is during school hours, Huntington said.
Even marketing and entrepreneurship classes have gotten into the planning.
“Ms. Dana Ziemba created a project for her classes to develop names and marketing campaigns,” Huntington said in a press release from Lockport Township High School. “Her classes then moved forward with six different names and logos. . We then asked the student body to vote and choose L-Town Grounds based on student feedback.
Eighteen students are currently involved with the cafe, “two or three” working there for one or two class periods at a time, Huntington said. In addition to learning hard work skills, students learn soft skills in a safe environment: collaborating with colleagues, following instructions from a supervisor, and interacting with the public, skills that are difficult to teach in the classroom, a said Huntington.
“Sometimes our students with special needs struggle to walk through the door to prove themselves,” Huntington said. “Having valid work experience and a supervisor reference sometimes takes the fear out of employers about bringing in someone with special abilities.”
The boutique had some “growing pains” along the way, she said.
For example, the cafe was flooded with orders after students shared the link online. Dedicated time slots now limit the number of orders at one time, Huntington said.
Then the paper products supplier wasn’t accepting new customers, leaving the L-Town Grounds cafe to rely on staff running multiple errands, which wasn’t the most efficient option, Huntington said.
“We had to spend a little more time thoughtfully planning how to choose supplies, so that we didn’t run out in the middle of the day to buy milk and things like that,” Huntington said.
Lockport Township High School isn’t the only school to use coffee to teach job skills.
The Grundy County Special Education Cooperative Realizing Educational and Career Hopes (REACH) program, which is housed at Minooka Community High School District #111, created the Coffee Cart program, according to a District 111 press release.
For $1, staff members can order a cup of coffee or tea and REACH students will deliver that order. The money is being used to purchase new supplies, according to the statement.