Waynesville Middle brews work experienceSpecial education students open new cafe
The aroma of fresh brewed coffee will fill the halls at Waynesville Middle School every Monday morning now that the school’s special education classes have combined their efforts to create the Mountie Dream Beans Café.
Each week, a small group of special education students will work in the café from 7:30 a.m. to 8:15 on Mondays. Each student will take on a different role — whether it’s taking an order, serving the coffee, counting money, or making a coffee delivery to a classroom or office.
On opening day, Feb. 3, seven students were selling premium roast coffee, hot apple cider, danishes and granola bars. The cafe sells 12-ounce cups of coffee or cider for $1, danishes for $1, granola bars for 50 cents and faculty members could also fill up their own mugs for $1.50. All proceeds will benefit the special education class account.
The 25 special education students at WMS, referred to as the “incredible team," will each get a turn working in the café each month. The café caters to parents and faculty only due to a countywide rule that prohibits the sale of food or beverages to other students.
The café is a "school-based enterprise” — a trend that is being implemented in several counties across the state. While running the café, students will learn to clock in and clock out, wear a uniform, handle money, and interact with customers.
Trevor Putnam, principal at Waynesville Middle, said the café would be beneficial to the students.
“The goal of any classroom is to prepare our students for the real world,” Putnam said. “They will learn lots of real life skills through the operation of the coffee shop. It provides a practical application for the concepts being learned. Our teachers and students are to be commended for making this idea a reality."
Special education teacher Linda Estes deemed the first day a success, adding that the first group of students had between 20-25 customers.
She said the café would help prepare students for a job in a vocational field one day — unlike the classroom.
“This was just a more work based idea for the kids,” Estes said. “It gives the kids real life work training for when they go out to get a job.”
Estes said the café was also a way to bring awareness to local businesses like Smoky Mountain Coffee Roasters, Barber’s Orchard and Rikki Tiki Tees, each of which donated goods to the café.
Kevin Duckett, owner of Smoky Mountain Coffee Roasters, created a special “dream bean blend” and donated it to the cafe.
“It’s a medium roast that nobody else has,” Duckett said. “I combined about three different coffees for it. It’s just another opportunity at a minimal fee to help our kids get a great thing going, and to teach them about coffee and about business in general.”
Duckett has worked with Evergreen Community Charter School in Asheville to help those students start their own coffee company, and he said he wanted to help Waynesville Middle do the same thing.
“Hopefully this will grow and bring in awareness and money for them,” Duckett said.
On Monday morning, the café workers were all were dressed in uniform — wearing a lanyard and a neon yellow T-shirts made with a Mountie Dream Beans Café logo and design. The shirts were designed at Rikki Tiki Tees and were paid for by Waynesville Middle’s student council and individual faculty members.
Jennifer Mehaffey, who teaches sixth grade, was one of the faculty members who received a coffee delivery Monday morning. She said she was impressed with the special delivery.
“They were all very friendly and used their manners,” Mehaffey said. “I thought it was neat because all of the other students in the class wanted to know what was going on and I told them they were learning work skills. Now, they want to be a part of it. It helps (the special education students) gain more respect at school I think.”
Estes said she hoped the café would eventually expand its delivery into the community so her students can receive more interaction with people.
“There’s some shyness, but for the most part they’re being very professional,” Estes said.
Estes added that the café would also be alternating its beverages so there’s always something different. Whenever hot apple cider isn’t served, the café will sell hot chocolate or hot tea instead, in addition to coffee.
“We try to mix it up so there’s something for everybody,” Estes said.
Members of the “incredible team” include Elyea Shepperd, Zack Grasty, Nolan Leopard, R.D. Lemacks, Austin Warren, Levi Stinette, Chris Freeman, Johnathan Justice, Timothy Cole, Chris Amsler, Luke Trantham, Tommy Hannah, Addison Mason, Donny Kramer, Allison Creary, Cheyenne Hightower, Elizabeth Boyce, Eddie Moodie, Shadow Mitchell, Justin Deconinck, Jacob Greenarch, Robbie Bryson, Michaela Bradshaw, Lexie James and Isaiah Hensley.