At UMFS we have the standard office coffeepots. But our favorite coffee is served on Fridays on the Richmond campus. That’s when the Charterhouse School Mustang Express Coffee Cart makes its rounds.
The Coffee Cart program started in 2016. That’s when Career & Technical Education Coordinator Sarah McCaig started working on a new elective. The goal of elective classes is to teach students work skills and life lessons that will prepare them for the workforce. While reviewing options for the new elective, Sarah saw a YouTube video about a student-run coffee cart. She knew she had a winning concept.
Sarah set up the Coffee Cart to be a small business. That gives the students an opportunity to learn a variety of skills. Money management is a big one. Students start by learning how to give change properly. Next they learn how to budget for the business. Coffee Cart is self-funding. The coffee is donated by Ironclad Coffee Roasters, but the students need to pay for the rest of the supplies from the money they make.
Working on Coffee Cart is also a great internal motivator for the students. Mastering the skills to successfully run Coffee Cart gives them a sense of purpose and pride. It also teaches them coping skills when things go wrong. As Coffee Cart student Lisa* shared, “Ms. McCaig taught me how to keep going through work issues.” When Lisa first started working on Coffee Cart, she was really nervous visiting all of the offices. Now she really enjoys seeing her customers.
“I’m trying to create as many job experience opportunities for them as possible,” said Sarah. “Once you give up some control, the students can really surprise you. They’re capable of so much.” One great example is the interview process the students developed. They created professional interview questions, and conduct the interviews themselves to select new student employees. The process gives them valuable experience.
Working on the Coffee Cart has become a status symbol on campus. It’s also been inspirational. Jim* was in his senior year when he turned 18. Jim is in foster care, and he considered leaving the system and dropping out of school. Sarah reached out to Jim and encouraged him to interview for Coffee Cart. He got the job. Being part of the Coffee Cart team motivated Jim to stay in school and graduate on time. “It’s really amazing to work here,” he shared. “I really like the people.”
*Student names have been changed.