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Cafe Turns Into Valuable Learning Tool

November 4, 2012, 9:57 PM by Derek Olson

Cafe Turns Into Valuable Learning Tool

It seems like gourmet coffee shops are popping up everywhere these days.  But at Rapid City Central High School, a new bistro does more than just serve refreshments; it's teaching real-world lessons to special education students.

It's Thursday morning and 11th grader Blake Peterson is on the job delivering coffee.

"It's still is foggy.  Brian Karstens wanted it to be foggy today," Peterson said.

But Peterson has more than just the weather forecast memorized.  He delivers coffee to more than 100 Rapid City Central customers every week.

"Today I'm having a mocha light latte freshly delivered by Blake, the face of the shop," High School Intervention Strategist Kathryn Kettering said.

Faculty at the school can also pick up coffee from the Wake Up Central Coffee Shop, which is run by students in special education.

"I like to have it delivered but I also like to go down there because I tell Miss Heuston that I come for my daily dose of joy," Kettering said.

But for students, it's about more than just making coffee.  They're getting a taste of what it's like to work in the real world.

"They learn money skills, they're using a cash register, measuring spoons, so the practical, hard skills, but also some of the soft, social skills as well," Special Education teacher Amy Heuston said.

Heuston started the coffee shop at the beginning of the school year with the help of a grant from the state's Special Education Department.  She says it's turned into a priceless teaching tool.

"The experiences and the skills that they've gotten, I couldn't have possibly taught them in my classroom," Heuston said.

And they've learned it all while serving up a mean cup of joe.

"We're better than Starbucks, yeah," Peterson said.

"It's fun for everybody.  It's fun for me.  It's fun for them.  It's fun for the people who get coffee delivered to them," Heuston said.

Heuston got the idea while attending a state Special Education conference.

Get more information by visiting the Wake Up Central Coffee Shop's website.

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