A new mobile catering program is underway in the Leechburg area school district.
Students enrolled in the district’s learning support program launched the Creation Cafe Coffee Cart in August, selling hot and cold drinks and snacks to elementary school teachers.
The mobile cart is the newest addition to the existing Creation Cafe, located in the high school library.
The Creation Cafe opened in 2019 but had to close during the pandemic.
It reopened this fall and serves students and staff.
The benefits of the mobile cart are two-fold, said program coordinator and art teacher Erin Hettrich.
It offers a convenient way for staff to satisfy their caffeine cravings and keep hunger at bay without having to leave their classrooms. And students learn workplace skills and earn money for supplies and a spring field trip.
“Everyone, regardless of their perceived disability, should have the opportunity to work,” Hettrich said. “Unfortunately, in 2021, only 19.1% of (adults) with disabilities were employed, significantly lagging behind those without disabilities. Investing in this population can have a significant impact on the strength of the labor market .
“Integrating workforce skills into our curriculum is a priority at Leechburg.”
Jennifer Turner, a fifth-grade teacher, is a frequent customer of the coffee carts.
“It’s such a great program, and I think it develops those real-life skills for students. Teachers also benefit because we have them delivered,” Turner said. “I love popcorn and coffee.”
David Leech Elementary School fifth grader Drake McMillen operates the new Creation Cafe mobile cart Wednesday in the Leechburg Area School District. The Coffee on Wheels raises funds for students enrolled in the Learning Support Program.@VNDNews @TribLIVE pic.twitter.com/ONYuMWXSpD
— Joyce Hanz (@hanz_joyce) October 26, 2022
The cafe has approximately eight students in grades 5-12 enrolled in the learning support program.
Student duties include taking orders, waiting for students and staff customers, cooking, inventory, prep, accounting, cleaning, and marketing.
Students use the Square app to receive payments from customers.
For students who can’t read, signs posted in the cafe’s kitchen provide clues.
“For example, this year we have an amazing student who can recreate just about any font,” Hettrich said. “He may not make coffee, but he writes amazing messages on our coffee sleeves and writes our menu.”
Joyce Hanz | Tribune-Review
Students and staff from the Leechburg Area School District take a break in the reopened Creation Cafe, a student-run cafe located in the library. Proceeds from the cafe are used to fund field trips and other equipment for students in the learning support program.
Paraprofessional Antigone Kostiuk said the mobile cart was well received by primary school teachers as they did not have time to walk to the cafe in the morning.
“Everyone came up with the idea of bringing the coffee to the teachers,” Kostiuk said. “Students gain confidence, interact with other students and teachers, work on their speaking skills, and socialize.”
“They run a small business and use math and social skills,” Hettrich said.
The cafe is open from 8:45 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays. The coffee cart operates on Monday and Wednesday mornings.
Menu items include fries, popcorn, pastries, cookies, granola bars, Hot Pockets, nuts and cheese, breakfast cookies, and muffins.
Drinks on offer include hot tea, coffee, iced coffee, hot chocolate, cappuccino, orange juice, and water. Iced coffee, hot chocolate, and popcorn are top sellers.
Joyce Hanz | Tribune-Review
Leechburg Area High School senior Olivia Smythe makes an iced coffee at Creation Cafe.
Hettrich said sales have been strong, typically exceeding $200 per hour.
Senior Olivia Smythe enjoys her job as a barista. Making iced coffees is his specialty.
“I love it. I feel like I’m preparing to get a job,” Smythe said. “I run the cash register, and I was scared to do it. But now I can run it while I sleep.
Hettrich said she hopes to take her students on a field trip to Brother Andre’s Cafe in Pittsburgh.
The Hettrich Café management team is complemented by staff members Clair Hess, speech therapist; paraprofessionals Kostiuk, Melissa Shearer and Heather Compton; Anne Romaniw, occupational therapist; and Rebecca Crooks, special education teacher.