March 13, 2024

Coffee cart program helps students develop life skills

by Nicole Rossolato

Teachers and staff at Nordonia Middle School are enjoying a new perk at the start of each school day courtesy of the coffee cart, a program managed by special education teacher Ron Gura and his students.

The coffee cart program started in November 2023 and, according to regular customer and NMS Principal Bryan Seward, it is a welcome addition to the middle school.

“The staff has not only been ecstatic that they have it, but they are very happy to support our students,” Seward said. “It’s great to have the students come around, and it makes your day when they come to your door and tell you it’s coffee time.”

Gura and his students deliver hot beverages Tuesday and Thursday mornings and first and second periods. Gura said they have about 25 regular customers who order coffee or tea in advance, with hot chocolate being added to the menu soon. Students also accept same-day orders. With a class of seven students, Gura rotates the schedule so two or three students work each shift alongside two adults, including Gura and one special education aide.

“It’s a really good thing for students, because they work on both communication and math skills,” Gura said.

Students interact with teachers and peers, make change for orders and count the money at the end of their shift. They also have an opportunity to develop customer service skills.

“We are really working [with them] on properly behaving themselves, saying please and thank you, and asking questions like ‘what kind of creamer do you want?’ or ‘how many sugars?’” said Gura.

Managing a small business like the coffee cart requires students to check inventory and stock the cart with enough supplies to fill standing orders and accommodate last minute changes or additions. Gura said one teacher placed an order for tea for her whole class, requiring his students to prepare accordingly for a special order.

Gura became familiar with the coffee cart program during his 20 years as a reading and math intervention specialist at Nordonia High School, where the special education department has managed a successful coffee cart for years.

When Gura joined the middle school staff this year, he was inspired to bring the same program to his students. He applied for and received a mini grant from the Nordonia Schools Foundation to purchase supplies, and the coffee cart quickly became a self-supporting program.

Building on the success of the coffee cart, Gura started a recycling program with his students this February. Students collect paper from the classrooms three days a week and transfer the paper to the recycling dumpster.

Seward said he is on board with another beneficial program. “The school is benefitting and the students are certainly benefitting by getting out and learning those basic skills that will make everyone successful down the road

The Foundation was established in 1995, is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization that It is governed by a volunteer Board of Trustees.

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