HUGHESVILLE – Every Wednesday, students and staff at Hughesville High School get a special treat – a chance to visit “Spartan Sip” the coffee shop for their favorite drink — and then the students who run the coffee bar get the experience of running a business and all that goes with it.
“Spartan Sip” it’s a cafeteria that serves high school students and staff lemonade, coffee, things like that. It’s run by some of our students that really focus on the kind of functional daily living skills,” said April Paulhamus, director of the special education program at East Lycoming School District.
“It’s them running it and kind of working out how to run it, whether it’s a small business or just the ability to run a cash register and food service with other kids.” she said.
The cafe started last year and it really has “removed”, said Paulhamus.
“It has been very well received by students and staff,” she added.
The idea to start the cafe came from the desire to offer programs that would appeal to students of 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 this was a way to really address some of the day-to-day functional skills for some kids.” said Paulhamus.
The cafe is located in the school’s library at this point, though Paulhamus said they hope to find another permanent location that is more functional.
“It is located outside the library at the moment where there is a counter where students and staff can arrange. Things are made to order when they come to the registry at the library,” said Paulhamus.
“They also do pre-order deliveries for staff. So it allows students to make deliveries and have that social aspect – that business aspect of giving and interacting with adults and staff. she said.
Students get a day off every period except lunch, said Jenn Fabiano, a life skills teacher at the high school.
“It’s really a small business — we count the drawer and order the supplies.” she added.
For Savannah Emerick, 14, who works at Spartan Sips, one of the pluses of the program is the customers.
“I love that you meet new people coming in and out and make friends, and I love that you can get a free drink at the end.” said Emerick.
“I like that there are different flavors you can get. Some people come in and we won’t have hot chocolate and they’ll be like, ‘oh no, that just ruined my whole day because I don’t know what else to get.’ she laughed.
She noted that the busiest period is the flex period and that, sometimes at the end of the day, there will be a line up to the checkout counters and out the library doors.
Between 20 and 25 students are involved in the preparation and distribution for the cafeteria.
“They have a schedule and it’s basically the kids that you know what they like and what they would do a really good job of.” said Paulhamus.
“It’s actually a schedule for making all the coffee and lemonade and then there’s also a schedule for entering all the pre-orders into the register and then there’s also a schedule for the actual day that the cafe is operating. who’s there and who’s behind the counter, who’s doing what.” she explained.
Because there is preparation involved, the program would like to find another location inside the high school that would have running water, but, Paulhamus said, that is still in the works and pending approval.
So far, the program has been a win-win for both cafe workers and their customers.
“Honestly from all avenues, it has been nothing but a positive experience. It’s been well received, all the kids seem to really enjoy doing it and for all the kids out there. It is very well received and all the children are so kind to each other.” said Paulhamus.
Plus, students are gaining skills they can take with them when they enter the workforce after graduation.
“That’s one of our main goals, so that they get these skills that they can definitely transfer to real-life employment opportunities.” said Paulhamus.
Emerick was very happy to learn that she would be working at Spartan Sips this school year.
“I was so excited – all summer I was like I was going to work in a coffee shop.” she said. “But the worst thing is that when you stand too long your feet start to hurt and when I get home, I’m so tired.” she said.
“Every day I come home, I have a new drink in my hand. I’m always like, ‘Gram try this, try this.’ she added. “All my friends on the bus are always like, ‘I can’t wait to go to the cafe and see what kind of flavors there are.’ It’s really fun.”
For Paulhamus, one of the important things about the program is how positive everyone has been about it.
“The only thing I would say is that it’s been a really great experience just to see how well it’s been received from all quarters. We just have a really, really great school and a great community.” said Paulhamus.