Students from the John S. Charlton School and Caesar Rodney High School are working together to ensure Riders have a nice cup of coffee in the morning.
From 7:30 to 9 each morning, students from Charlton rendezvous with culinary students at the high school to work the Brew and Gold Café.
The Charlton School teaches students who face a range of physical and intellectual disabilities.
They work together preparing pastries, putting up menus and warming up latte machines.
The café, which opened in October, is meant to teach life skills.
Chef Riki Senn, who joined the district at the beginning of the school year, runs the café. She said it provides her culinary students with a chance to gain experience.
“It’s an excellent opportunity for them to practice production skills because it is about producing the same thing over and over and over,” Senn said. “Producing something repetitiously is something you have to do in the industry.”
Senn said students often sit down and come up with prices for the café, but she tries to keep the prices low.
“If this was actually my restaurant you’d be charged three times what you see on that board,” she said.
While the culinary and Charlton students share the workload, Nate Threatts, who coaches the football team’s offensive line, helps the Charlton students.
Michelle Flanders, the assistant principal at Charlton, said the café helps special needs students who are transitioning from high school to being independent.
“They are getting an example of what it’s like to run a small business,” Flanders said. “They are doing things like keeping track of the till, inventory and doing stock.”
She said working the café helps the students understand certain subjects like math.
“The math classes will follow up and find out exactly how many cups of coffee were sold that day and determine, based off of the stock, if they have to order more, how much money was taken in and what was the profit,” she said.
Flanders said the setting allows Charlton students to face real challenges.
“A lot of our students are working on the soft skills of employment, which are communication and socialization,” she said. “It’s pretty difficult for a lot of our students because it is real world practice.”
Kathi Stephan, a transition coordinator at Charlton, said it’s healthy for the students to make mistakes.
“Those soft skills can’t be taught in the classroom,” Stephan said. “When they leave Charlton they’ll be able to go to any coffee shop.”
While both groups take away different lessons, Senn said there are some similarities.
“It’s an excellent chance for them to learn people skills and multi-tasking—a win-win situation for both groups,” Senn said.