Sidney Central
School District
Café 108 delivers on opportunity
It started with one Keurig.

During the 2011-12 school year, Holly Lape, then a special education teacher in the Sidney Central School District, helped launch Café 108, a business to help kids in the Career Development and Occupational Studies (CDOS) program to get as much life experience as possible.

CDOS is part of a career development for students with disabilities. The class teaches life skills, such as communication, personal qualities (such as teamwork, responsibility, etc.), as well as managing resources (such as money).

Lape, now the K-8 Dean of Students and the CPSE/CSE Chairperson at Sidney, said the program has grown since it started with the one Keurig machine.

“The idea was to have students be more active in the school community,” Lape said. “It was to give the students hands-on and real-life job experience.”

The program has blossomed in recent years. No longer does one Keurig cut it. Now, the students have two Keurigs, a commercial toaster, and they manage all the cooking stations. When Café 108 first started, they served coffee and tea. Now, there are breakfast sandwiches and items such as bagels.

Back then, teachers could call down to the classroom or e-mail Lape. It’s different now, though.

These days, faculty can still call, or they e-mail the café address with their order. The orders are on a screen in the classroom so students can see what is happening for that day. Teacher Marcia Hammond or one of her aides will watch over the incoming orders, helping students keep on task.

Students then prepare the orders and deliver them to the elementary, middle, and high school. Each student has a designated task (making coffee, toasting bagels, preparing breakfast sandwiches/wraps, delivering, etc.) that they do as part of the organization. Students check with one another on orders and make sure everything is covered.

On deliveries, students take the items to class, handle money/make change, and do all aspects of the sale.

“The life skills incorporated into Café 108 are preparing our students to be gainfully employable in a variety of businesses,” said Eben Bullock, Sidney’s high school principal. “The goal of Café 108 is to expose students to necessary skills that can help them gain employment. … Watching the social interaction reinforce customer service skills has been a tremendous aspect of the program.”

For repeat customers, there’s even a punch-card program where staff members can earn a free coffee after buying a certain amount. Costs are also quite low as the program basically funds itself.

“I order not only because it’s convenient to order at the school, but I know how much it helps the students gain skills for employability,” said Juli Howland, Sidney’s CSE secretary.

Aaron Zurn, a Sidney graduate and an aide in the CDOS program, said Café 108 is a good building block for students.

“It offers work-related experience that may help students get a job in the future,” he said.

It’s not just about building the skills for jobs, though. The class also enforces social skills and interaction.

“I have seen some of these students who aren't usually very outgoing starting to take charge,” said Gina Gorshack, an aide in the class. “They answer the phone, and communicate with the other students on what needs to be done and really push themselves and others in the room to get the orders ready for delivery.

“I feel the cafe has built up their confidence and helped them realize that they can step outside of what they are used to doing and accept a new challenge,” she said.

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Sidney Central School District
95 West Main Street  |  Sidney, NY 13838  |   Phone: 607.563.2135  |   Fax: 607.563.2386
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