By Jessica Dagel

What do teachers like? Coffee! What do students like? Cookies!

Coffee and cookies are our two biggest sellers at the Perky Hawk and Java Jaguar coffee shops in Ankeny, Iowa. Over the past 15 years, the two high school coffee shops have added smoothies, slushies, and various school supplies for students and staff members to buy during the school day. Any student can apply to work during their open campus or as a part of their vocational education classes. Supervision is provided by community volunteers who work from 8:30 AM to 11:00 AM side by side with students in the coffee shops. In the afternoon, a special education associate can work with students with more significant disabilities when traffic and sales are slower. Students count the cash drawer, make the daily deposit, and clean the equipment at the end of each school day.

Other life skills that students learn while working at the coffee shops are clocking in and out on a time clock, using a cash register and touch screen, making change, stocking and inventory, following recipes to make drinks, food sanitation rules, customer service and delivery, taking phone orders, and basic cleaning tasks. Students earn in-store credit based upon their hours worked as well as having a half-price discount at the end of their shift. Because learning these skills are accessible to all students in our school, often a student with a disability works alongside a nondisabled peer learning the same skills. By practicing in a safe environment with staff and students who know them, they can grow in ways that will help them gain employment in the future. Many students list me as a job reference when they apply for their first “real” jobs, which I heartily give when asked!

The money that we make is used to purchase supplies to keep our business open. We also have a Coffee Shop Grant program for teachers and clubs to apply for supplies and activities that will improve our school or educational experience. We create fun drinks to promote things like the school play-recently we created the “Get Smart” smoothie with mystery ingredients to support the play “Get Smart” being performed in our school. When there is a food drive or winter clothing drive, our coffee shop becomes the drop off location.

In recent news, we will soon be able to accept debit/credit cards as payment so that being a cashier better simulates a real-world work environment that takes both cash and credit. All of these experiences, as well as the combination of students with and without disabilities and community volunteers, has created a great work environment and service to the students of both Ankeny high schools!

image of jessica dagel and her family

I have taught special education for almost 20 years. Currently, I am a vocational education teacher and help sponsor Circle of Friends (social activities for students with & without disabilities).

Photo by Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash