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Special needs students at Chaparral High brewing something special for 'real world' experience

Proceeds help fund field trips, charity donations
Posted at 4:37 PM, Nov 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-07 10:30:36-05

PARKER, Colo. -- Kids in the Significant Support Needs (SSN) program at Chaparral High School are brewing up something special.

They've been placed in charge of The Wolverine Wake Up, an in-school coffee shop that helps raise funds for SSN field trips and selected charities. Wednesday was the official grand opening.

"It's the best coffee in the whole wide world," said Ethan Herminett, one of the students manning the shop.

Shop Manager Ethan Walsh, a Chaparral High junior, said they've been selling lots of coffee and hot chocolate to help students get the day started on the right foot.

"If someone feels sad, we try to make their day happy," he said.

Walsh added that a portion of the proceeds from each sale helps pay for buses, which are used to transport students on their trips.

"We haven't been going on lots of field trips this year because we've been low on money," he said.

But Tristan Myers, a Chaparral freshman, said the few trips they have been on, have been memorable learning experiences.

"I liked the alpaca farm," he said. "That one was a fun one because we learned all about the alpacas and llamas, and we got to feed a baby llama."

Chaparral senior Beau Tomsic said his favorite trip was the one to Four Mile Historic Park. When asked why, he said, "because we studied the horses."

According to Kim Laterza, one of the teachers, the goal of the program is to help students build résumés.

"They can put this on a job application because this is a real business," she said. "Hopefully, when they graduate, they go to an amazing program called "Bridge," and build on the skills they learn here, and hopefully, down the road, they can be employed by a business like Dirt Coffee Bar, which employs and empowers individuals with autism."

The Wolverine Wake Up is giving the SSN students real world business experience taking orders, making change and dealing with stress.

Business students in Chaparral's DECA program have volunteered to help the SSN students.

"I love being able to come in and see these kids, they always have a smile on their face, which is so contagious," said Kathleen Reilly, a high school junior. "Our job is to help promote it... our job is to help with the business side. Their job, as SSN students, is to do what's working best for them to help them gain real world experiences."

Walsh said working in the shop makes him feel proud.

"It's fun," he said. "I'm working with my friends."

Principal Greg Gotchey said the shop is intended to help broaden student's thinking.

"If you're in chemistry class, I don't need you to be a chemist, but for the next 52 minutes, I want you to think like a chemist," he said. "In this coffee shop, I just need you, for 52 minutes, to think like a business owner, like a manager, or a customer service representative."

Gotchey said he believes strongly in the idea of the "Chap (Chaparral High School) Family."

"Everyone is invited to be part of the Chap Family regardless of your ability, and taking care of one another... is our motto," he said.

Gotchey said he has a niece with Down syndrome.

"One of the things I realized in working with my sister and (my niece) is we underestimate the abilities all too often and it's time that we show what people can do, and not worry about what they can't do," Gotchey said.

The students manning the shop are taking that to heart.