By Heidy Brosofsky-Weaver
mail@floridanewsline.com

For coffee connoisseurs, there are few things better than that morning cup of joe. Thanks to a new Bitty & Beau’s Coffee delivery service offered at Creekside High School, that is exactly what staff members receive: A customized cup of fresh-brewed coffee … and a friendly smile to start the day.

“It’s fun to make coffee,” said Creekside senior J.J. Jordan, who comes in early to prepare the coffee. “I like to help people and see them smile.”

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“I have learned a lot about being a barista,” said senior Bryan Santos meticulously measuring the exact water needed for a perfect pot of coffee.

Both Jordan and Santos are part of the school’s Access Points program. This offers students opportunities to work on their high school diploma while gaining real-world job experience. 

According to teacher Michelle Joyner, participation in the Bitty & Beau’s activity provides various skills and “allows students to determine if this might be something they would like to pursue as a job after they complete their schooling.” She said several students now consider themselves baristas, and the job “gives them a great sense of pride.”

In addition to this three-day-a-week coffee endeavor, which kicked off in December, seniors in the Career Experience class receive community-based instruction working at local businesses such as Publix and PDQ. Furthermore, these dedicated students run the recycling program at Creekside High School, and they were recently involved in making and selling customized doormats before the holiday season. 

The Access Points courses teach “self-determination and self-advocacy as well as job skills and community work experience, preparing them for employment,” Joyner said.

This same philosophy is also at the heart of Bitty & Beau’s Coffee, which opened its first store in Wilmington, NC, in 2016. Founder Amy Wright wanted to provide Bitty and Beau, her two children with special needs, job opportunities that celebrated and showed appreciation for their diversity. In addition to employing people with varying disabilities at her coffee shops, Wright, who was named 2017 CNN Hero of the Year, implemented the Bitty & Beau’s Coffee Cart program, too.

Creekside paraprofessional Michele Stubbs said local business GradePower Learning partnered with the school to purchase the initial cart supply kit, including a brewer, caps, and aprons. Stubbs, who helps supervise coffee production and delivery, added that proceeds will more than likely go toward a celebratory field trip at the end of the school year. 

Meanwhile, teachers and students are making memories.

“We have a Spanish teacher who orders from us, and just the other day, one of our students who speaks fluent Spanish delivered her coffee,” said Joyner. “They started talking in Spanish, and all the students were just mesmerized and impressed by how well they conversed together.”

Although it takes a lot of time to prepare for delivery, it’s time well spent, said JoJo Morgan, a senior who is also the first Miss Royal Knight pageant winner. “The staff is grateful, and it puts a smile on their faces.” To her, that’s the best reward of all.

Photo courtesy Heidy Brosofsky-Weaver

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