STURGIS, S.D. (AP) — Students in Steve Hilton’s life skills classroom at Sturgis Brown High School are learning job and life skills one cup of coffee at a time.
On a recent Thursday, the students held a grand opening and ribbon cutting for their Scooper Sam’s Awesome Coffee Hut which is nestled in the corner of Room 162.
Food service regulations prohibit the students from selling their coffee, tea and hot chocolate to fellow students, but they have found a brisk business selling to staff.
The coffee is freshly ground. They offer a variety of mix-in flavors, both regular and sugar-free, along with eight flavors of tea.
Students rotate job duties which include taking orders, making drinks and delivering drinks.
The 14 students fill out timecards and are paid with classroom currency via check once weekly.
The students must deposit the check into their bank account. Then, if they want to buy a drink, they have to write a check out of their classroom currency account to pay for it.
The hands-on project has given student Beau Remington a dream of someday working in a coffee shop outside of school.
“I would love to do that. I love coffee,” said Beau, who has now earned the nickname of “Beau-rista” for his stellar coffee-making skills.
Beau told the Black Hills Pioneer it is important to have the coffee shop business because he learns new things every day.
“Making coffee makes me happy. It helps me concentrate and do what I need to do to focus,” he said.
Hilton gives credit for the operation to the students.
“This is the students’ business,” he said. “Everything that we have come up with has come from them.”
Hilton said he planted the seed and the students took it from there.
The idea first surfaced when Hilton and Ronda Feterl, day program coordinator for Black Hills Special Services Cooperative, attended a summer conference and heard about the coffee shop concept being used at Harrisburg High School.
They then visited an in-school coffee shop at Rapid City Stevens High School this fall.
From there, the planning for Scooper Sam’s Awesome Coffee Hut began.
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“We put together what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do it,” Hilton said.
Then, they figured out how much it was going to cost.
Hilton’s co-worker Kelsey Smith helped price out equipment and presented a proposal to Pioneer Bank & Trust who agreed to fund the project with $2,000.
Hilton has a motto on the wall in his classroom. It reads: “Make today so awesome that yesterday gets jealous.”
As the students brainstormed names for their coffee shop, they knew they wanted to use their class motto as their business motto.
So, Scooper Sam’s Awesome Coffee Hut’s motto is “Making today’s cup so awesome yesterday’s cup gets jealous.”
When their concept started to take shape, the students worked with students in Tere Froelich’s journalism class to put together a survey that went out to staff about what they would like to see in a coffee shop.
“We didn’t want to make too much, but wanted to make it something that would be used,” Hilton said. “We took what we got back from that survey and developed what we now have to offer.”
Hilton said it has been fun to see the excitement build among the student business managers as the coffee shop concept came together.
When the equipment started to arrive in their classroom the dream of a coffee shop became very real, Hilton said.
“The lights really began shining brightly,” he said.
Feterl said she sees school as a culture, and the entrepreneurs in the life skills classroom are part of that culture.
“It has really opened the doors to these entrepreneurs in a way that none of us could have imagined. I have seen confidence grow in a matter of three weeks and it has been overwhelming,” she said.
The students feel more a part of the community at Sturgis Brown High School and take pride in their business, she said.
“This is even more than Steve and I could have imagined this opportunity could actually bring back to the students here. We’re very thankful to everyone for giving the opportunity to shine like everyone else. Their whole attitude has changed. They feel good about themselves,” Feterl said.
Brice Rock, vice president and branch manager of Pioneer Bank & Trust of Sturgis, along with Dylan Clarkson, president and chief executive officer of Pioneer Bank & Trust, were on hand for the grand opening.
“We’re grateful to be asked. This is part of our obligation to western South Dakota and the communities that we serve,” Clarkson said. “All of you did the hard work. We just thank you for letting us be a part of it.”
Hilton is an employee of Black Hills Special Services Cooperative which provides educational services, including support for the developmentally disabled, for school districts in the Black Hills from Oelrichs, Edgemont, Hot Springs, Custer, Belle Fourche, Spearfish, Lead-Deadwood, Sturgis, Rapid City, Douglas and as far east as Haakon County.
They rent the life skills classroom at the high school from the Meade School District.
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