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Serving Coffee Provides Students With Essential Skills

A Neuwoehner student pours a cup of coffee while a staff member supervises.November 29, 2021 - Every morning, Monday through Friday at 8 AM, five students in Michelle Cantino’s Learning Community class prepare and serve coffee, hot chocolate, and tea for teachers and staff at Neuwoehner High School. The goal of the class is to prepare students to meet their employment, education, and independent living outcomes, and serving hot beverages helps the students do just that. 

“Students learn functional life skills, work skills, and social skills,” said Cantino. “Students truly learn how to multitask, follow two to three step directions, how to work as a team, how to interact appropriately with others, how to recall orders, and how to follow directions from a supervisor.” 

The students begin their day in Ms. Cantino’s classroom, making fresh coffee, cleaning, and restocking the supply and money cart with creamer, cups, lids, napkins, and sweeteners. They also wear appropriate attire including an apron, gloves, and ID badge. Each student has a job for the week - cashier, server, coffee maker, and cart pusher, rotating positions every Monday.

“I really like watching how proficient students become with the various tasks associated with coffee carts,” said Cantino. “They get to interact with people in the building that they wouldn't normally see and step outside their level of comfort.” 

Serving coffee has been a part of the vocational instruction and life skills curriculum since 2016, after the school received a SEF Mini Grant. Cantino says the coffee cart is a staple in the Neuwoehner community. Patrons can purchase monthly punch cards, which students process to improve their fine motor skills. The cost is $1 per cup and SSD employees are welcome to stop anytime in the morning to purchase a delicious cup of coffee.