Between English classes, math exams and music studies, students at Winston Churchill High School now have the opportunity to learn an entirely different set of skills – with a practical bent.
When The Daily Roast opens at 7:15 a.m. in the Churchill concession stand, a group of students greets teachers with a friendly, “How can I help you?,” and begins taking orders for coffee pick-up or deliveries to classrooms.
Until 9:15 a.m. teachers and staff are served K-cup coffee and tea, with cream and sugar – served by students, and all of it donated from parents and staff. In a high school known nationally for its academic rigor, the Daily Roast is a teacher’s effort to bring a new element of education to the school.
“These students haven’t had a chance to develop job skills because they’re so academically focused,” said Lynde Thai, a Churchill transition support teacher. “But those aren’t the skills that will help them keep their jobs. I’m hoping to add that vocational element to the school.”
Politicians and economists recently have voiced approval for workforce development and vocational support in schools. Last year, economic and workforce development experts told the Montgomery County Council that the dynamic of the nation’s economy is changing and many students need practical skills they can take directly to the workforce. President Clinton echoed these thoughts during his speech at the Democratic National Convention in September.
Almost 30 kids are involved with the Churchill program, taking on certain roles and time commitments within the shop. The various jobs available are based on individual student interests or career goals.
There is a waiting list of students wanting to be involved with the project.
Thai says there will be an application process for next year and the criteria for getting in will be developed by the students.
“My goal, by the end of the year is that the kids will be doing everything,” she said. From design and merchandising to advertising, finances and sales, Thai wants the students to experience what it’s like to run a business from the ground up.
Thai says she’s hoping to partner with local businesses to help with supplies.
“Right now we haven’t spent a single penny. I can’t believe how generous this community is,” Thai said. “Staff has given me stuff every time I turn around. Parents are dropping off boxes of stuff and the Booster club donated sugars and Sweet & Low.”
Two months into the program, the shop is grossing more than $30 a day.
All profits are going back into the store, or will be added to a school fund to help with school supplies. According to Thai, teachers will be able to pitch ideas for school supplies like computers and printers to the shop’s student board, which will decide where to put the money.
“I think people are buying in," Thai said. "I have heard one negative comment and I think that’s unusual. The students’ training period is over. They understand what they’re doing, we’re getting more students involved – it’s progressing just like any business.”