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Special School District of St. Louis County
Students Brew Success with Coffee Cart

Quite often the most popular people on college campuses are the star athletes or student body president. At Fontbonne University, two of the most popular people on campus are Neuwoehner students Stas Johnston and Sam Shortal.

Through a partnership with Fontbonne, Stas and Sam are learning valuable communication and independent living skills, while operating a thriving business.

Every Tuesday morning for the past two months, Stas and Sam, along with their teacher Madeleine Grucza, navigate the Coffee Cart along the corridors of Ryan Hall, offering Costa Rican coffee, hot tea and hot chocolate to Fontbonne faculty and staff.

Even though the two may not be on the rolls at Fontbonne, it is evident when they arrive at office doorways that they have become a well-known duo. "They always brighten my Tuesdays," said one customer. "They always come at the right time of day to bring me a pick-me-up."

Both Stas and Sam are in their second year in the Neuwoehner class at Fontbonne, and they work as a team to serve their customers.
"I like the money — taking it and giving change back," Stas said. He often handles the financial aspects while Sam begins preparing the beverage order.

The Coffee Cart is beneficial for the two as it requires practicing multiple skills all at once, as opposed to just practicing one or two at a time.

"They are learning how to run a small business, which includes ordering, managing and providing good service," said Grucza. "There are multiple steps involved when selling hot drinks. Besides approaching each customer with a warm greeting, they need to pour the hot coffee or water into a cup, offer cream, sugar, stirrer and lid, and calculate the change they need to give back."

The idea for the Coffee Cart was borrowed from SSD teacher Sherri Jenkerson’s class at Mehlville High School, where they run a similar vending cart. The project, funded initially through a mini-grant from the Special Education Foundation, has already had to expand.

"By the second week we expanded our service to a second building and added items other than just coffee," Grucza said.

The money earned with the cart is used to replenish supplies and also pay for Metro bus passes that the students use weekly as part of their life-skills training.

"It’s an important thing that they can get out there and interact with an adult population outside of school," said Neuwoehner Principal Lorie Arnsman-Schwartz.

"The pride I see in Stas and Sam is evident as they become more confident in themselves," Grucza said.

One goal for Stas and Sam is to learn the names of many staff members they cater to. Getting staff members to remember them, on the other hand, has already been accomplished.
Stas Johnston and Sam Shortal

Neuwoehner students Stas Johnston and Sam Shortal prepare a hot beverage for a customer at their Coffee Cart at Fontbonne University. Operating the small business allows them to gain valuable skills while getting to know staff and faculty on campus.
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12110 Clayton Rd, Town & Country, MO 63131  /  314.989.8100  /  314.989.8552 – 711 (Missouri Relay)

Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) is a leader in providing special education services to students with disabilities and also provides a wide range of career and technical education programs.
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