What is going on with Cup of Joe? The new schedule and guidelines explained


Emilia Helbig, Staff Writer

“The whole purpose of Cup of Joe is for students to learn how to work a business. They are learning every day. Please be patient as we go. Thank you.” This is written on the door of room 503, behind which is our school’s beloved coffee shop, Cup of Joe. Recently, a lot has changed there—schedules, serving times, and the menu, and a lot of students are confused about why that is and how exactly those changes are going to look like. 

“This was always supposed to be a classroom to support the students in the ACE program,” said Naomi Forster, a long-term substitute teacher who is going to help lead the program until the end of this year. “ACE” stands for “Alternative Cooperative Education” and the purpose of that program is to help students who have disabilities acquire job skills. 

But a lot of factors came together that made the coffee shop not appropriately fulfill its purpose, which is why things had to change. 

“They really had a hard time functioning and focusing because of all the people; a lot of them have very sensory needs, with sound and commotion and could not handle all of the students that were in there and often felt that their needs were being met. And some of them actually were withdrawn from the class because of that,” said Dr. Julie Chaplain, Fossil Ridge High School’s Principal. 

“It would be like me trying to teach you tennis, next to a train track, in your math class. It’s just too much going on,” said Forster. “Now, it’s a lot less stressful. They’re excited because now they’re actually learning a bunch of different jobs, whereas before, some of them really weren’t doing anything.”

“I just didn’t like the way themes would go. And so I wanted to switch out,” said Ethan van Thorre, a junior in the ACE program.

Also,  healthy food and serving guidelines by the state and Department of Education restrict anything that is full of sugar to be sold to students. Cup of Joe has to follow those nutritional guidelines just like the cafeteria does, which means some of the menu options will be changing to sugar-free options.

That is why now, first of all, people are only allowed to order a to-go drink during an off-period or for pick up during passing periods. 

“Coming in and buying coffee and then leaving is what a business should look like,” said Chaplain. 

The periods during which coffee is sold are also changing.  

“In third and fourth quarter right now that that class is focused on outside internships in the community. Those community internships need to be happening and are starting to happen now, so students won’t be in the building and we won’t have students in here to serve all the time,” said Dr. Chaplain. 

“ACE program starts with classroom lessons, doing some in school work, and then going outside of the building, doing work and volunteering to get jobs. So, hopefully, when you graduate, you can have a job outside of school.”

“We went to an animal shelter; it gives students the opportunity to say, you like dogs and cats, but would you want to work in a shelter where you’re a dog walker, you clean kennels? We teach them skills and then how to apply them in an actual job,” said Forster. 

“They’re trying us to show us what it’s like to get a real job and how to behave appropriately; when it comes to staying off your phone or getting a personal drink or using the bathroom for fun, and finding opportunities to that appropriate time,” said Troy DeRossi, a senior in the ACE program. 

The shift in Cup of Joe is from more of a hangout place to an actual classroom, which is what it is supposed to be. 

“It [working there] helps me feel independent. I feel like I’m more organized. Basically, every single skill and task of having a job is what I get there. Because I do so many different jobs and tasks it’s really helped me a lot, one of my best classes in high school. I like how fast time flies because I’m always doing something and when I’m in there, I like just working hard all the time,” said DeRossi. 

“I have learned to build up a stress tolerance,” said van Thorre. 

So, going forward next quarter and next year, coffee will be served during first period and occasionally during third or fourth period, dependent on the ACE students’ internship schedules. 

Christy Thomas, who has worked with ACE and other transition programs for many years, will (together with Ms. Forster until the end of this year) be leading it.

With the new times and restrictions, the experience for the students working there has really improved. 

“I like fewer people better,” said Hailie Jung, a senior in the ACE program. 

“It’s harder to find time to use the bathroom, get a drink, talk to your friends, or do other work. On the positive side, I like that we’re more organized. And we know which person is doing each task, because we have a certain time period for certain people at certain tasks, such as somebody makes the drink, somebody cleans, somebody takes the orders, somebody stands up the door, etc.,” said DeRossi. He finds they could allow a little more people but keep them in specific areas, as the crowds are hard to handle. 

Overall, all the kids like working in Cup of Joe ad say it has been a great experience. We all should help it stay a positive experience by respecting the student’s needs and let Cup of Joe be a classroom. 

“I’ve been doing this since my freshman year,” said van Thorre, “It’s so much fun.”