This semester, juniors and seniors in LEAD Academy’s Alternate Instructional Model (AIM) program are learning job skills right in their own school building by operating the Panther Grind, a morning coffee cart for students and staff.
“I love that Panther Grind gives students with disabilities a way to give back to their school community,” said Lindsey Hornbuckle, an exceptional education instructional manager at LEAD Academy. “They start every day by interacting with peers and staff members. Other students have started to recognize them and say hi to them by name in the hallways.”
Panther Grind serves free coffee to LEAD Cameron and LEAD Academy students and staff every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 7:10 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. The student workers are involved in every aspect of the operation, including ordering supplies, prepping the coffee cart in the afternoons, wheeling the cart to the lobby, brewing coffee in the morning, tallying the number of cups served, and cleaning the equipment. “I like to help people, they want coffee,” said Elubixia Vela Santizo, a junior at LEAD Academy who works at the Panther Grind.
AIM juniors and seniors recently took a field trip to No Free Coffee, a local coffee shop owned by the brother of LEAD Academy staff member Ashley Debro. On the trip, students learned about coffee beans, observed baristas making espresso-based drinks, and learned how to make matcha by hand.
“Before they were ‘hired’ at Panther Grind, they practiced what to say, how to greet and interact with customers,” said Hornbuckle. “It was hard work, but it’s so important! Just like their peers, by graduation we want Work-Based Learning students to be Ready for College, Ready for Life.”
In addition to the Panther Grind coffee cart, AIM students have other job opportunities around the school including caring for school pets, delivering copies from the print shop and assisting the janitorial staff. Students also package materials for Turnip Green Creative ReUse, a local nonprofit that provides volunteer kits.
Thank you to staff members Alicia Thompson and Ashley Debro for making these work experiences possible for AIM students this year! LEAD Academy is looking for off-campus work experiences during the spring semester, so if you are a local business interested in making an impact in your community, please contact Lindsey Hornbuckle at firstname.lastname@example.org.