“Wake up and smell the coffee” may as well be the motto for a group of students at Lincoln High School who get to school more than half an hour before the first bell rings to sell coffee in the halls.
Students in RISE (Reaching Independence through Structured Education), a special education program, have been selling coffee each day at school this year.
Friday was the last day in business for the young entrepreneurs for this school year, as the last day of school is May 25.
The coffee program started last year with a $2,800 grant from the Sioux Falls Public Schools Education Foundation. Originally, students made smoothies, and now they’re onto coffee. The grant went towards the supplies needed to get the carts up and running, and to purchase beans and cold coffee from Flyboy Donuts.
Learning life skills
RISE students came in before 7:30 a.m. to get the hot coffee pot going and prepare the cart to wheel down the hall and sell coffee in front of the school library.
Kaden Kittamus, a freshman at LHS, has stayed punctual throughout the school year, making sure to get to school on time to start the business of roasting beans, filtering coffee and setting out creamers, sugar, iced and hot coffee.
Kittamus and Cassia Oaks, an education assistant, spend every morning together working on the coffee business. Kittamus is “faithful every day,” Oaks said of his work ethic.
Socializing, handling money and change, and customer service are some of the skills Kittamus said he’s learned during his time with the coffee stand.
When it’s busy at the stand, he asks people, “Who has coffee? Who needs coffee?” Kittamus said.
The coffee business teaches students job skills necessary to transition to employment, responsibilities like showing up to work on time, clocking in and out, counting money and more, Mary Alexander, teacher in the RISE program, said.
Alexander called Kittamus a “rockstar” for his hard work with the coffee business this year, and said she was proud of how he’d grown from not knowing anything about coffee and being intimidated by the process, to coming in every morning before school and doing everything.
The reviews are in
There are some regular customers who have their favorites, some teachers and one student who consistently order black coffee, and customers who like to experiment with unique flavor combinations at the coffee stand.
Customers can pay $3 per coffee, and students in RISE pay $2 for coffees. Funds have gone toward buying a new refrigerator for the RISE classroom, December and May parties to celebrate the end of each semester, and other classroom needs for students in RISE, Alexander said.
Rhonda Lambert, a freshman also in the RISE program, ordered an iced coffee with a chocolate and caramel swirl, chocolate creamer and raspberry syrup. She said she likes the teamwork of the coffee business, and has learned to do both the cashier and barista jobs.
Randa LaRue, a senior at LHS, said she likes coffee because it keeps her awake. Lailene Conde, a junior, and Katie Kroeze, a journalism teacher, also stopped by for coffee Friday morning. Fellow RISE student Timothy James Storrs said his favorite coffee drink is coffee and caramel.
“They create the menu, they purchase all the ingredients, they handle the money, they do time management, they clock in and out, and learn customer service skills,” Allison Struck, executive director of the Sioux Falls Public Schools Education Foundation, said during the May 9, 2022 school board meeting. “We want to teach our students skills that they can use outside of the classroom when they’re furthering their education.”
This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: Sioux Falls RISE students run coffee business inside Lincoln High