HUGHESVILLE – Every Wednesday at Hughesville High School, students and staff get a special treat – a chance to visit “Spartan sips” coffee shop for their favorite drinks – and then students working in a coffee bar get hands-on experience running a business and everything that goes with it.
“Spartan sips” is a coffee shop at the high school that serves lemonade, coffee, and the like to students and staff. It’s really driven by some of our students focusing on functional daily living skills,” said April Paulhamus, East Lycoming School District’s special education program director.
“They’re the ones running it and they’re working on how to run it, whether it’s a small job or the ability to run the cash register and food service with the other kids.” he said.
The coffee shop started last year and it really has “removed” Paulhamus said.
“Very well received by students and staff” he added.
The idea to open the coffee shop came from a desire to offer programs that would appeal to students at all levels.
“(We were) just trying to expand some of our programs and meet the different needs and ability levels of all our kids in the district. So it was a way for some kids to cope with some functional everyday skills. Paulhamus said.
The coffee shop is currently located in the school library, though Paulhamus said they hope to find another permanent location that is more functional.
“It’s currently located outside the library, with a counter where students and staff can line up. When you register at the library, things are made to order.” Paulhamus said.
“They also do deliveries for pre-orders for employees. So it also allows students to deliver and have a social aspect – the delivery and work aspect of interacting with adults and staff,” he said.
Middle school life skills teacher Jenn Fabiano said students get permission to come down every period except lunch.
“It’s a really small job – we count the drawer and order the supplies” he added.
For Savannah Emerick, 14, who works at Spartan Sips, one of the benefits of the program is the customers.
“I like that you get to meet new people and make friends, and I like that you can get a free drink at the end” Emeric said.
“I like that there are different flavors you can get. Some people come in and we’re not going to have hot chocolate and they’re like, ‘No, that just ruined my whole day because I don’t know what else to buy. she laughed.
He noted that the busiest period is the flexible period, and sometimes there are lines at the checkout counters and library doors at the end of the day.
20-25 students participate in the preparation and delivery of the coffee shop.
“They have a schedule and it’s mostly kids that you know what they like and what they’re going to do really well at.” said Paulhamus.
“It’s actually a schedule for making all the coffee and lemonade, and then there’s a schedule for entering all the pre-orders into the register, and then there’s a schedule for the actual day the coffee shop is open. who’s there and who’s behind the counter, who’s doing what” he explained.
In preparation, the program would like to find another location within the high school to have running water, but Paulhamus said that is still in the works and pending approval.
So far, the program has been profitable for both the coffee shop staff and their customers.
“Honestly, it’s been nothing but a positive experience. It was well received, all the kids seemed to enjoy doing it, and for all the kids there. Very well received and all the children are very friendly to each other” said Paulhamus.
Plus, students gain skills they can take with them when they enter the workforce after graduation.
“That’s one of our main goals is that they definitely get these skills that they can transfer to real-life job opportunities.” said Paulhamus.
Emerick was thrilled to learn he would be working at Spartan Sips this school year.
“I was really excited – I got to work in a cafe all summer” he said. “But the worst thing is that if you stand for too long, your feet hurt and I’m so tired when I get home” he said.
“Every day when I come home, I have a new drink in my hand. I always say, ‘Gram try this, try that'” he added. “All my friends on the bus always say, ‘I can’t wait to go to the teahouse and see what kind of treats they have.’ It’s really fun.”
One of the great things about the program for Paulhamus is how positive everyone is about it.
“I would say it’s been a really cool experience just to see how well it’s been received from all areas. We just have a really, really great school and a great community.” said Paulhamus.