The need for a way to teach BOCES students work skills has blossomed into a unique community partnership at the LoGuidice Center recently.
Special education work experience teacher Amy Montgomery explained the state now requires students receiving a Career Development and Occupational Studies (CDOS) certification, which is based on work skills, to have a certain amount of work training hours as well as keeping up with academics. She said this can be difficult if students need to go off campus to receive work training.
"The eBrew coffee shop gives our BOCES students the opportunity to earn a CDOS Credential by providing work-based learning experiences at the LoGuidice Center," said Jennifer Saboda, director of alternative and special education at Erie 2 BOCES. "Students explore potential career options, apply skills learned to the world of work, manage information and resources, and attain the skills necessary to succeed in the workplace."
The idea for eBrew Coffee Shop and Studio was the solution that came forward to help with this problem.
"We were looking for something on campus that would support work-based learning ... and we had the idea of a coffee shop. We wanted to reach out to a local business so we approached the Krons," Montgomery said.
Elizabeth Davidson is the special education teacher who has been working with students to help hone jobs skills like money handling, customer service, cleaning, inventory control and workplace procedures.
"It is a classroom environment, so even though it is a coffee shop there is education going on. They serve the customers and then when there is a lag they are learning to make change, social skills, all the soft skills involved in the customer service industry," Montgomery explained.
"The eCoffee house program offers a positive, hands-on working experience that provides students with invaluable workplace and career oriented skills," said Suzette Benson, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction at Erie 2 BOCES. "By applying classroom lessons in a real-world setting, they are developing their talents to ensure a smooth transition from school to the workforce."
BOCES reached out to Dave and Gina Kron, franchise owners of several area Tim Hortons Cafe & Bake Shop locations. Gina said she was excited to see students learning the skills she sees her new employees struggle with.
"This is a great learning environment for kids. When we hire high school and college kids the most difficult thing to teach them is to smile. In this computer-focused age there is a lack of personal interaction. So, this is a fantastic opportunity to train some potential future employees and be involved with the community," Gina Kron said
Dave Kron said making change is not as readily taught today as it was when he was in school.
Davidson said they saw a need for instruction in this area and he has gotten approval for a basic cash register as well as a new counter top in Room 614 in E building.
"It's a win-win," Dave Kron added.
Davidson said they are thankful for the Krons' help and eBrew is a one-of-a-kind solution.
"I think all schools will struggle with the new work hour requirements. This shop is very unique to any school," she said.
The eBrew Coffee Shop and Studio is open for BOCES employees Mondays and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. with a break from 11:30 a.m. to noon for lunch.
"We have started slow so that we are able to teach," Davidson explained.
She noted not just anyone can serve Tim Hortons coffee at their own cafe. Permission was granted to the Krons to be a part of this venture by Tim Hortons corporate because it is completely student-run, non-profit and does not serve the general public - just BOCES staff.
"We are not looking to make money, so all the proceeds go back into buying coffee and supplies and it gets the kids ready for real work," Davidson said.
The coffee shop is also a studio for student jewelry made through the eBling program, which is made from salvaged computer parts. All proceeds from the eBling program benefit the Chautauqua County Humane Society.
Several of the students working in the cafe identified themselves as artists including Leonard Parsons, past student body president, who was creating a chalk drawing welcoming customers to eBrew.
"I have been here seven years and I have watched the school evolve," Parsons said. "I feel this school is based on creativity and the students really enjoy it."
Parsons said he tries to be a leader at the school and helped current student body president Frankie Blum, who also works at eBrew, in his new role. As president Blum signed the $100 loan needed to start up eBrew.
Student Alicia Miles said she is learning a lot and that the coffee shop has been busy. Another student, Joshua Eidens, was also on hand helping customers.