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Coffee cart helps perk up Kayhi
Ketchikan High School junior Edward Davis operates the Kayhi coffee stand on March 29 at Kayhi. Staff photo by Dustin Safranek

Daily News Staff Writer

Ketchikan High School’s coffee cart, tucked into a corner near the Ketchikan School District’s superintendent’s office, was buzzing with commerce mid-morning March 29.

Kayhi junior Edward Davis, a coffee cart server and also an official Kayhi Kings “Super Fan,” has been serving and delivering hot beverages for customers as part of his class with teacher Gale Lindemann.

“We like to say that this is Edward’s coffee cart,” Kayhi paraprofessional Abby Howe said, grinning.

“Edward is kind of like our little celebrity here at Kayhi — he knows everyone. Everyone knows him,” she added.

Four of Lindemann’s students regularly work at the cart along with Davis: junior Jonna Guevara, freshman Lilly Flanagan and a fourth who did not supply permission be publicly named.

Paraprofessionals Howe, Jim Maddocks, Candy Maisey, Laurah Merfeld and Denise Whitton assist and oversee the operations.

The cart started up about three years ago, according to Lindemann. She said that when she was hired to teach at Kayhi about three and a half years ago, she was told by Kayhi’s vice principal that a teacher who preceded her had obtained a grant a couple of years prior to set up a coffee- or food-selling cart at the school.

Lindemann was intrigued by the idea. The grant had supplied the class with materials and supplies, but some had been sold, some were missing, and there was no actual cart to sell from.

“I just had to pick up all the loose pieces that were there, and figure out how to do something productive with what had been done already,” she said.

She enlisted the school’s shop class to build a cart, and with quite a bit of help from Maddocks, the cart was finally ready to open.

The students set up the cart at 9:30 a.m. on school days, open for business between 10 a.m. and 10:15 a.m., during the school’s morning break, then clean up by 10:30 a.m.

A quote of the week is posted on the wall behind the workers, and those are fed by a suggestion box tucked to the side of the counter.

Lindemann said the cart originally was planned to be a fruit smoothie stand, but when the state’s nutritional guidelines were consulted, the recipes didn’t meet the standards. They bought pod coffee makers and the cream, sugar, cups, lids, whipped cream and other supplies they needed and began to sell light, medium and dark roast coffee, hot cocoa and chai tea instead.

She said they are allowed to sell snacks as well, and on special occasions, they’ll hold a bake sale or will sell ice cream.

The nutritional guidelines caused a glitch in operations again recently, when the state auditor included the cart in the yearly assessment and ruled that the cream, sugar and whipped cream were not allowed. The stand offers small packaged creamers to customers now, and that sparked a decline in sales.

“It was a challenge,” Lindemann said, but they’ve figured out some ways to improve sales, and plan a grand opening next fall with some new enticements for customers.

The heart of the coffee stand is the students, however.

Lindemann said the student baristas seem to enjoy their heightened role in the school.

“It really is a great opportunity to do something for their peers and their friends,” she said.

Davis agreed, stating his favorite part of working as a barista.

“I deliver coffee,” he said, adding that he also enjoys time to “hang out with Miss Abby, Mr. Jim.”

Customers who arrived at the cart seemed to enjoy their time to catch up with Davis, who had arrived at school earlier that morning straight from the airport ferry, on his return from a trip to Sitka with the Kayhi pep club and the basketball teams.

They asked him if he’d had a fun time, and how the weather was.

“Did you miss me?” Davis asked one customer, grinning as he handed her coffee across the counter.

Davis has Fridays off from his job, and he was enthusiastic about how he spends that free time, during the school-wide morning break.

“I go to snack break in the commons, and I say ‘Hi’ to my girls,” he said, grinning broadly, “since I’m the most popular guy in school.”

Balancing the fun of socializing with the responsibility of doing one’s job also is an important skill that the students learn.

“It’s a job training opportunity,” Lindemann said. “The benefits are huge for our kiddos.”

She added that working as a barista at the cart “provides an authentic opportunity and setting to practice things like communication, organization — it’s really great for making connections between peers and building staff.”

The experience also “gives them experience with money handling, and just a lot of basic job skills,” Lindemann explained. “They’re learning a lot about responsibility. The big piece is that it’s authentic. We aren’t having to recreate it in the classroom.”

Choosing the right beverages and snacks to sell also offers a chance for the students to learn about nutrition, she added.

The learning doesn’t stop there.

“It helps them build skills as we graph our sales on the wall in the classroom,” Lindemann said, and the group also discusses profit and costs as well as counts the money from sales. Each beverage sells for $1.00.

“Building confidence and independence” are probably the biggest benefit to the kids, she added.

The coffee cart is now completely fiscally self sufficient, Lindemann added. The profits are used to buy more equipment and supplies, as well as to fund special events like a picnic at the end of the school year.

When the crew launches the grand opening of the cart when school starts in the fall, LIndemann said they to unveil a new sign for the cart.

She said she hopes to enlist the help of the school’s shop class or technology department to create the sign, but first, they will hold a building-wide vote to choose a name for their business.

The success of the cart has been the result of a team effort, Lindemann emphasized.

“It hasn’t been me that’s done all of the work to get this together — the staff are a huge part of it, and we couldn’t do it without everybody,” she said.