A new program in the Life Skills Special Education Class at Andrew Jackson High School (AJHS) is shaping the future of local students – one espresso at a time.
A recent Haile Gold Mine contribution has helped establish Café AJ, an educational program designed to teach students important skills in customer service, order management, advertising, and organizational skills.
“When my students leave my class, I want them to be prepared for life after high school,” AJHS Teacher Jennifer Riggins said.
The coffee shop will serve students and teachers at the school with assistance from local companies White Blossom Coffee Co. and The Wandering Bean, which offered to help establish the coffee making process. Other local businesses donated coffee and supplies.
Equipment was the high school’s primary need, and Haile’s donation will help buy an espresso machine, coffee maker, water filters, a cash register, service cart, cups and lids, syrups, signs, and aprons.
Riggins said the goal is for donations to support the program’s upstart but after that, the shop is going to be fully self-supporting.
This isn’t the first opportunity students in Ms. Riggins’ class have had to learn valuable hands-on real-life skills. In prior years, special education students have volunteered at the Kershaw Area Resource Exchange (KARE). They also sold tea, punch, and brownies to students and teachers during lunch.
The COVID-19 pandemic sidelined most of the activities, and Ms. Riggins had to start thinking outside the box, “I had to get creative in order to give them this experience inside my classroom. Because we have several coffee shops around our area, I thought by giving them the work experience, knowledge, and know-how, they could possibly get a job with one of our local baristas after high school,” she said.
OceanaGold strives to make a positive impact in the community and has targeted education as one area of focus for contributions. Providing support for educational endeavors provides local students with the knowledge, skills and values that help shape a sustainable future.