Wednesday , May 29 2024

We Are Fresno: The art of coffee-making

A special education class in Caruthers is specializing in the art of coffee making.

A couple of years ago part of the classroom was turned into a coffee shop, transforming students with disabilities into baristas and bookkeepers.
In this week’s We are Fresno, Angela Greenwood takes us inside the Blue Raider Cafe where kids are being prepared for life after school.

It may be the most important meal for many, but inside this classroom coffee holds an importance that goes far beyond your typical caffeine kick.

"Coffee’s so fun," Christian Vasquez, a special ed student.

Welcome to the Blue Raiders Café, a real life coffee shop run by eleven special education students at Caruthers High. Jerry Viterbo, 17, is one of the lead baristas.

"It’s fun learning how to make them," Viterbo said.

Business began here in 2013, after half of the classroom was transformed into a working café. Teacher Selina Garcia says it’s grown ever since.

"Caruthers is pretty small and we don’t have a coffee shop here so we are like the Starbucks here in town," Garcia said.

Every morning the students, who often beat their teacher to class, get to work filling dozens of orders from teachers and students and delivering them throughout campus.

"They say thank you and that it’s delicious," Tod Tompkins, Caruthers Unified Special Ed Director said. "It’s such a rewarding experience to see these students taking part in this seeing their smiles being a part of something."

And each student plays a part, from washing dishes and packaging sweets to designing menus and counting money.
Special education director Tod Tompkins says the experience gives them a leg up.

"This they can actually put on their resume they were a barista they did the bookkeeping for the blue raider cafe," Tompkins said.

Also boosting their confidence and social skills.

"It makes me feel proud and happy at the same time," Heather Gonzalez, a special ed senior said.

With each cup, comes a little more pride, hope and success. At this cafe more than just coffee is brewing.

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