Students learn life skills at the OWL Cafe

13 Jun

A small, student-run cafe has sprung up at Schlegel Rd. Elementary School, and it’s providing a lot more than just coffee and snacks for both students and staff.

The “OWL Cafe, Coffee and More” is being operated by the students of the One Webster Learning (OWL) Center, a small program serving Webster Central School District students in grades K-12. 

The cafe, which has been operating for about a month, was first proposed for Schlegel by OWL social worker Kelly Petzing, who saw a similar venture at another school. She immediately recognized that “it would be a good opportunity for the kids to plan something, work together, and use different skills,” she said. It’d be an especially good way to reinforce the mathematics and social skills they’ve been working on all year.

So she brought the idea to OWL teacher Brennan Leva, and together they presented it to the students.

“They were all super excited about it,” Petzing said. So they started planning, working with the students to come up with a name, figuring out what kinds of jobs were required, what services to provide and what products to sell.

The cafe launched about a month ago, and the students immediately proved they were up to the challenge of operating a new business. They rotate among three jobs, Leva said: set-up, cashier and barista. Each presents a different set of learning goals.

“For set-up, students need to learn what things they need to get ready each day, and how to make a list of items that might be missing,” Leva explained. “The cashier’s job is to greet customers, count money and give change.”

The job of barista, however, is probably the most popular. This student listens for the orders, makes the coffee in the Keurig or pours the tea, and hands the drink order to the customers.

The cafe is open for an hour every morning and a half hour in the afternoon. Its menu includes hot or iced coffee, hot or iced tea, seltzer water and a variety of cookies, chips, fresh fruit and other snacks.

It’s a very professionally run business. Every employee wears a crisp blue apron, complete with name tag. Customers are immediately greeted with a polite, “Welcome to OWL Cafe, Coffee and More. How can we help you?” Orders are filled quickly, change is made accurately (albeit with some adult help) and if you need creamer or sugar, you’ll find it at the well-stocked condiment bar. There are even regular specials like half-off hot tea, or buy a drink and get a hand-made bracelet for free. They offer loyalty cards. There’s even an “Employee of the Week,” his or her photo posted next to the condiment bar.

In the short time the cafe has been open, the students have already shown great strides in self-confidence and even leadership skills, Leva said She added,

At first it was a lot of adult help but I think they can pretty much run it self-sufficiently. They’ve really taken over ownership of it. We’ve had some of the younger kids start training. So it’s nice to see that they took complete control of training them, told them everything they need to know, gave them aprons so they’re ready to go.”

A few students have even said they might like to work at Starbucks someday.

Schlegel staff members have embraced the new cafe with open arms, keeping the staff busy with orders for coffee, tea and snacks.

Consultant teacher Bill Ambler is a regular customer.

“The OWL Cafe staff greet me every morning with a smile and a fresh iced coffee,” he said. “The students are always so eager to serve and offer their recommendations. It’s wonderful to see some friends who have been very shy in the past come out of their shells when talking to staff, and a noticeable increase in self-confidence.”

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(posted 6/13/2022)

One Response to “Students learn life skills at the OWL Cafe”

  1. hahimes June 13, 2022 at 9:05 pm #

    what a great idea and learning experience in a fun way for these kids!

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