JERSEY SHORE — Jersey Shore Area Senior High School’s Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) chapter received exciting news at the district’s Nov. 25 school board meeting. The new project they had proposed in the previous meeting received approval from the board to begin. This left students excited for the newest addition to the senior high — a coffee cart in the library.
The American Enterprise Project is a statewide FBLA project that is submitted every year. Its goal is to promote an understanding of business and the American Enterprise System to a certain group of students.
Samantha Machmer is the chairperson for the American Enterprise Project along with other team members. Her mother, Stephanie Machmer, is the life skills teacher at the high school. Samantha proposed collaborating with the life skills students for the project as the main focus group. After Mrs. Machmer and her students agreed, the next task was to decide how to promote this understanding.
The answer was a relatively simple one: start a business inside the school run by the life skills students. Once the team started to research businesses in school, they were made aware of hundreds of examples of coffee carts run by special education students across the state and the country. These coffee carts were proven to benefit so many different groups of students within the school in every case.
Samantha and Mrs. Machmer visited a coffee roaster, Denim Coffee Company, in Carlisle, Pa. who gave them a quick lesson on making coffee and running a small business. The owner also offered them a deal on high quality coffee for a reduced price because of it being for a school project. It seemed simple, talk to the right people and get started as soon as possible but the team quickly learned that opening a business was not that easy.
Once the life skills class agreed to help run the coffee cart and the high school FBLA advisor, Mrs. Dolly Oden, was on board and excited about the project, it was time to talk to the library staff.
The district librarian, Mrs. Katie Wert, has been very forthcoming since she started her job at Jersey Shore about wanting to innovate and elevate the library. At the moment, it is not an inviting space for students to come in when they have free time during the day and students rarely use its plentiful resources because they are not aware that the resources are available.
According to a survey done by the librarians, 31.1 percent of the students (113 students) that participated in the survey say that they do not use the library. 19.6 percent (71 students) say they only use it a few times a year. That means that half of all students rarely use the library, or at all. Both FBLA and the library staff want to change this and make the library a place that students want to visit. The addition of a coffee cart into the library would bring students into the library that wouldn’t go in there otherwise. This would expose them to the resources that are available to them inside the library.
After the library staff agreed to the project, the team moved to the cafeteria staff next.
Ms. Alex Mahaffey, the director of Food Services, was very excited about the project as well. She provided information about regulations that the district’s food service provider, Nutrition Incorporated, puts in place for things like sugar and caffeine content of drinks given to students. This information was something that the team was not aware of so it was a big help to work with someone that understood the regulations.
After the project had the cafeteria workers’ blessing to continue, the team worked to inform the administration of the project. High school principal Steven Keen and vice principal, Mrs. Elizabeth Seagraves were very supportive and excited about the project. From there the project was taken to the school board.
Samantha Machmer, Mrs.Wert, and Mrs. Machmer presented the project to the school board at the Nov. 11 meeting and asked for their support and approval. They explained all of the benefits and positive impacts that it would have on the school and the students’ social and emotional learning. Two weeks later at the Nov. 25 meeting the board approved the project. After months of planning, the project is ready to kick off.
Samantha and two other members of the American Enterprise Project team visited the Jersey Shore Elementary School. The JSE life skills class runs a successful coffee cart in their room. They take orders from teachers and staff, then fill and deliver those orders the next day.
The FBLA students visited with the students and learned about running a business from the elementary students. The life skills class taught the older kids about budgeting, advertisement, and other important aspects of running their business.
Samantha and their team also brought a team building activity for them to complete to learn the importance of teamwork when running a business.
The kids had to work together in teams of four to use one rubber band to stack and unstack plastic cups as fast as they could. The kids were very excited about the activity and discussed how important working together is while they competed. After the activity, they talked to the high school students about what they think they want to be when they grow up.
They colored pictures of what they think their job will look like when they are working when they are older. They shared their future plans with the students and the group reflected on how being responsible for the coffee cart would help them when they have to do things like handle money when they are older.
The elementary school students were very excited that the “big kids” were going to run a coffee cart just like they did. They were very helpful when giving the team advice they had for when the high school coffee cart opens and wished the team luck in starting up their business.
The team is excited to get the ball rolling on the project and see it flourish in the school. They will begin to secure funding through grants and donations to replace a section of the carpet in the library with laminate for the coffee area.
This funding will also cover the startup costs of the counter that the life skills class will work behind, all paper goods, coffee grounds from Denim Coffee Co. and the flavoring syrups. Once everything that needs to be purchased is ready to go, the coffee cart will be piloted to faculty and staff.
This will give the students a chance to perfect their system of operation and the way they make coffee so that people are the most satisfied with it. After this piloting period is over and the business is ready, the operation will be rolled out to students.
At this time, the students can buy a cup of hot or iced coffee or even hot chocolate from the coffee cart. There will be tables nearby the serving area for students who have time to sit and enjoy their coffee to do so. This will allow for the life skills students to have a conversation with the customers and help them build connections and friendships that will benefit them in years to come.
This flow of conversation will strengthen the soft skills of both groups of students which everyone needs post-graduation when they are in a work environment. The life skills class will also be able to educate the regular education students on how they run their business and how things work in a small business through showing them as well as telling them about it.
An increase in education is the main goal of any school, and the addition of the coffee cart in the library will take this education a step further into the business world for both regular and special education students. This coffee cart is an exciting new project not only for FBLA and the life skills class, but the entire student body.