SPARTANBURG CO, SC (WSPA) – Chapman High School students with special needs are running their own business, inside their own classroom, called the LIFE CAFE.
The LIFE CAFE is coffee shop run by the students in the special education program. The cafe started back in September 2018, thanks to a suggestion by fellow teacher, said Special Education and Track Coach Robert Gray.
“Initially, when they first started, you see the nervousness. The wow factor of it being their first job. Coming in and just like, this is a lot of stuff to do. A lot of responsibility. But we take our time and give them a routine,” Gray said.
By letting the students run the cafe they’re getting hands on experience, to work in the real world. They learn how to take food and drink orders, how to make coffee and pastries.
All of these skills can translate into jobs outside of school, for example a coffee shop.
Sophomore KeNya Brooks said she’s a fan of working in the cafe. The experience has given her confidence and a sense of pride in herself and her work.
Since working in the cafe, Gray said Brooks has developed better interpersonal skills and is willing to talk to faculty and staff she doesn’t know.
“Don’t be shy or nervous. Like, I mean, there’s nothing to be shy about. It’s just getting to know people. Like, know people you don’t like know,” Brooks said.
The name of the business, LIFE CAFE, is an acronym: “Learning It From Experience, the Chapman Aroma For Educators”. Chapman principal Dr. Andrew McMillan said he’s proud of what the special education department has done with this project for the students.
“They’re doing a lot of things that we can certainly talk about all day in the classroom. But, until they put it into practice, where it really makes sense to them, connections are being made for them. So, when they leave here, they can put it into practice,” McMillan said.
McMillan said the department already had a skills lab classroom. There students could learn how to make their own bed, iron clothing, or operate the washing machine.
Now with the addition of the cafe, teachers are able to teach more skills for students to use outside the school.
Matthew Vukusach said his classroom is the best because he likes to work with his hands.
On top of helping in the cafe, Vukusach also does laundry for the girl’s basketball team, by washing their jerseys
“It’s makes me feel good, because my teacher really trusts me,” Vukusach said.
He attributes his success to one thing, confidence.
“You can’t get nothing done unless you have the confidence,” Vukusach said.
Although, the learned skills listed can seem simple, McMillan and Gray said they’re game changing for these students.
Money from the LIFE CAFE helps continue the business by purchasing supplies for the coffee and breakfast items said Gray.