Special needs students at Zionsville Community High School are learning several life lessons by running a business.
The students started Cafe 31 last February and have continued the coffee and tea cart service this year.
“It’s a complimentary service that has really become quite lucrative,” Jennifer Davis, a life skills teacher at ZCHS, said. “It’s a great experience for the kids to learn a lot of social skills. They learn to say, ‘Thank you’ and ‘Would you like anything else’ and things like that. They are also able to learn how to budget because they have to count up the money at the end of the day and figure out how much they need to keep the carts stocked.”
Davissaid the students are also learning home maintenance skills.
“We try to teach a lot of our students (home maintenance skills),” she said. “They know how to clean everything and wipe everything down. One of our students is an office assistant at a church, and one day they didn’t have coffee. She was able to make coffee for them, and now that’s part of her job. It’s really great to see that.”
While the service is free, tips are accepted to keep the business running.
“The main use of the money is to keep the business going,” she said. “Excess money is used to buy things for the classroom. I wrote up a grant and received iPads for the classroom and wanted to print things from it, but the school’s printer wasn’t able to do that. With the extra money, I was able to buy a printer for the iPads.”
Davissaid there are three different carts that serve the high school and Educational Services Center.
“The teacher signs up for coffee or tea to be delivered to their room,” she said. “Sometime during first period, one of the people will come by and drop it off. We do have donuts available that are donated by Le Dolce Vita.”
Davissaid her students enjoy running the business.
“(The students) absolutely love it,” she said. “We have three students that can run it per day and a schedule to show who will be working when. They have gotten to meet people that they normally wouldn’t have, which has opened a lot of doors.”
Davissaid the teachers have been very receptive to the service.
“The teachers have been really nice,” she said. “We are able to get around the school and form relationships with people we didn’t know. It’s opened a lot of different doors. Say, I really want to incorporate music in with a lesson, the music teacher and I have a good relationship now.”