Making the fruity drinks before Tuesday’s meeting were three Norwalk High School students — sophomore Beth Claus, freshman Karime Hernandez and junior Nicholas Welfle. Intervention specialist Cari Beers, who started the Stomping Grounds coffee shop with longtime co-worker Callie Baker in 2015, served the drinks to school board members and administrators.
“That is really good,” said vice president John Lendrum, echoing the praise of board member Steve Linder.
“Very good,” board member Beth Schnellinger added.
Stomping Grounds is open from 7 to 7:40 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday at NHS. The students serve about 60 drinks a day. While also a student-run coffee shop, Stomping Grounds is a semester-long, half-credit class.
“You are getting to experience some of the joy our kids have every day,” Principal Brad Cooley told the board, referring to the smoothies.
Beers discussed Stomping Grounds during the education spotlight, a regular part of the monthly board meetings.
The coffee shop opened May 20, 2015. Beers shared a photo of opening day, when there was a line that went past the library into the social studies wing.
“I work on the hot side, where they make hot chocolate,” said Welfle, the son of Tim and Whitney, who most enjoys learning “the working skills,” such as filling out the orders.
Students have various inventory responsibilities. One student is responsible for ordering milk and cream through Toft’s in Sandusky. During the class, they learn about applying for jobs, safety, work-place attire, proper hygiene, handling money and “working with the boss.”
Since the students can’t be paid for working, Beers said they earn drinks and she occasionally treats them to breakfast from McDonald’s.
“They have two references to put on a job application,” the teacher added.
Cooley said Stomping Grounds also offers a team concept that helps keep students at NHS instead of possibly attending EHOVE Career Center.
Claus, whose mother is Jenny, said she most enjoys the teamwork and what she referred to as “the business aspect” — taking customers’ orders.
“You learn to work with people,” she added.
Stomping Grounds has purchased several pieces of new equipment since 2015 — a Vitamix blender recently, a Bunn brewer in 2016 and, earlier, a new Bunn grinder.
One of the focuses of the class is giving back to others. In 2017, Stomping Grounds contributed to Trunk or Treat, The Salvation Army, a Wreaths Across America field trip, Children’s Miracle Network through the annual NHS mini-dance marathon, a scholarship for a NHS senior and helping a family in need at Christmas.
“Our whole point was for them to be productive citizens,” said Beers after she was named the Norwalk teacher of the year.
“Anybody can work at the coffee house; it’s not just special ed students,” she added. “I think it’s done wonders. We have kids every year who want to be a part of it.”
Beers told the school board she really enjoys that Stomping Grounds allows her students to be part of a group.
“We make it fun; we have music going; we joke around. I can’t say enough about it because I love it so much,” she said.