Students Serve up Hot Drinks and get Cup Full of Learning

Samantha Kislow, Reporter

What does it take to make a delicious cup of coffee while teaching students how to work in a productive environment? 

   The Forest Cafe, a new small business to the D.C. Everest Senior High, does this. The cafe is run by staff and special education students. 

   Two people, Tiphany Schmidt, department chair of special education, and Tami Mlodik, D.C. Everest Senior High School psychologist started a cafe called the Forest Cafe.  They created it with inspiration from Oshkosh West High School where they both went to school.

   Jeremy Brandt, Cross Categorical Special Education Teacher, who helps make coffee at the cafe, said, “Oshkosh West had a very cool coffee shop with their special education students, and they wanted to replicate it.”

   To create a small coffee shop in D.C. Everest high school, “Many teachers and administrators helped write grants,” said Brandt. The Forest Cafe needed its starting funding for its computerized machines. With the computerized machines, “anyone can make the most complicated drink,” said Brandt. “Staff who help make drinks were trained by Frankie Installers on how to work and create coffees.”

   The Forest Cafe sells many different types of coffees to students, and the two most popular ones are, “Carmel latte and pumpkin spice latte,” said Kathy Lee, Students With Disability Aid. While caramel and pumpkin spice lattes are the most popular, the iced latte macchiato is Lee’s favorite drink to make. The Forest Cafe set a goal to sell 100 cups a day, said Lee.

   While the Forest Cafe keeps developing, “more promotions will be coming out soon,” said Brandt. One promotion being proposed is releasing punch cards where you buy nine drinks and get the tenth one free.

   Another promotion being proposed is the coffee cart. The coffee cart will have special education students pushing it to classrooms and delivering coffee. Staff is working for it to be approved by teachers, and get it out to many classrooms.

   “The staff at the Forest Cafe are trying to help teachers understand by setting the first five minutes of class to order and that’s all,” said Brandt.

   The Forest Cafe focuses its mission around its students. One student in particular, 10th grade, Alexis Vongphouthone, sophomore, helps run the register at the Forest Cafe, and is learning to give out correct change. Vongphouthone likes working at the Forest Cafe because she can hand out coffee to everyone, she said.  As well as helping make the coffees on the machines, she also enjoys working the register at the coffee shop, but her favorite is the coffee cart. Vongphouthone said, “I like doing the coffee cart.” 

   While the Forest Cafe creates and sells coffee, the real message behind it is to help special education students become productive members in the community. The special education program wanted to, “have a business that helps our school become a more inclusive environment,” said Brandt.

   The Forest Cafe is leaving an impact on their students by teaching them a new learning process, and the staff wants students around the school to realize it, said Lee. With special education students working at the forest cafe they have learned to adapt in new environments. “A lot of them are more socially adapted,” said Lee. The Special Education students are now not as shy. Also, they have more courage to interact with students with a new found self confidence.