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El Paso County Colorado District 49

RISE Above coffee service in D 49

Shauna Anderson, special education teacher at Skyview Middle School, took on the challenge of staff shortages for the special education department head on. Working with both significant needs and cognitive needs students, they developed a project that gave students an opportunity to learn life skills.Anderson, 23 SPED students and several paraprofessionals sat down at the beginning of the school year and discussed options for a functional project they could work on together. From there, a coffee shop was born, called RISE Above Grounds. RISE stands for Reaching Independence through Support and Education.Hereís how it works: The students collect between 25 and 35 coffee orders from teachers throughout the week; and, on Friday, students check in with Anderson and several paraprofessionals for their assignments before working their stations to make the coffee and deliver those orders. There are several jobs that are rotated among the students each week ó labeling, making coffee, making tea and hot chocolate, delivering and cleanup ó providing an opportunity for everyone to learn the different jobs.They have a budget and track inventory, income and expenses. Over the past few months, they have added a snack selection to the coffee menu, offering goodies like trail mix, decorated cookies, Rice Krispie treats or marshmallows dipped in chocolate. Making and delivering snacks have become favorite activities; the snacks are especially popular with teachers.Getting the coffee service up and running came together quickly. Skyview Middle School helped with some startup funding and The Johnson Group donated a 40-cup coffee maker. A manager from the Dutch Brothers Dublin and Powers location brought syrups and taught students how to make flavored coffees.Anderson said RISE Above Grounds is run like a business. They refer to it as ìthe coffee businessî and not a school program. Since the business took off, it is financially self-sufficient through donations from customers, although Anderson admitted to occasionally purchasing supplies with her personal funds.She said the business gives the students an opportunity to learn how to work together, gives them real life job skills and other independent skills they can use at home.RISE Above Grounds plans to continue next school year, and Anderson said there are other schools in the district considering a coffee service project for their schools.ìI think it is so rewarding to see that every student is able to learn independence skills,î Anderson said. ìThe fact that they are able to have their job and be so successful at it is so rewarding for them to see that sense of self-accomplishment. Also, as a staff to see how much theyíre growing and how much excitement they have is so very rewarding. It lets other students around the school see that just because these students may be a little different from you, theyíre still very capable of doing so many incredible things.î

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