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Phase II (community-based work experience): Research also shows that students with disabilities who participate in community-based work experiences alongside non-disabled peers have better employment outcomes. Consequently, Phase II programming is in the community. Phase II involves our new mobile coffee trailer, which we were able to purchase thanks to a grant from the area Rotary Clubs (Ashland, Hanover, and Mechanicsville). During this phase, students take the skills, abilities, and confidence gained in their school coffee businesses and put them to work selling coffee and other items at sporting events, community festivals, faires, and other places. The goals are further development of work skills, successful engagement with community members, and increased community awareness of all that individuals with disabilities CAN do!
We have a 3 phase plan to accomplish our mission.
Phase I (work-experience in schools): Research demonstrates that youth with disabilities who receive school-based work experience are more than twice as likely to have successful employment after high school, yet less than 25% get that experience. Therefore, our Phase I activities are focused on establishing school-based coffee businesses in special education classrooms, and we have been doing it for 3 years now! We provide everything (e.g., commercial coffee makers, cups, creamers, aprons, order forms, and locally-roasted coffee) a school needs to run a sustainable coffee business and teach critical work-related skills to students with disabilities. Currently, we support 8 different schools in Hanover County and 1 in Louisa County. Teachers and students in special education classes are selling coffee and other items to teachers in their school. They are learning to take customer orders, prepare drinks, count money, stock and restock items, place orders for restocking, and serve customers.
If Phase I is "coffee in schools" and Phase II is "coffee in the community," thenPhase III is Coffee in our Shop! Our goal is to operate a fully sustainable coffee shop that will provide vocational training for students with developmental disabilities while they are still in school, employment opportunities once they graduate, and community inclusion and integration for life. Our dream is that it will be a "gathering place" where people can come and relax, enjoy delicious locally roasted coffee, listen to local music, see local art, be themselves, and feel a true sense of community. We look forward to finding that perfect place and building it with you.