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BEST students build skills at coffee shop

BEST students build skills at coffee shop

This year, 19 students from the Burnsville Eagan Savage Transition (BEST) program are operating the BEST Coffee ~N~ More coffee shop at Diamondhead Education Center. 

District staff, students and visitors to Diamondhead can purchase coffee and snacks at BEST Coffee ~N~ More on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. 

Students Diego Alvarez and Stephen Spofford were two of the first employees when the coffee shop opened last year. This year they’re serving as supervisors, demonstrating their leadership skills and knowledge as they train new staff members. Working in the coffee shop, BEST students learn customer service skills, finance skills, organizational skills, and more. 

BEST students work at the coffee shop at Diamondhead Education Center.

“BEST Coffee ~N~ More has been a highlight for students,” Student Services Supervisor Jennifer Middendorf said. “It has given them the opportunity to see how a business is run from open to close as well as the financial side and marketing. Students learn several job soft skills such as social skills, working with others/teamwork, initiative, for example, what to do when there are no customers, self-advocacy, attention to detail, punctuality, task completion/staying on task, adapting to change, following directions, problem solving, organization, following task lists, accepting constructive feedback, and appropriate workplace health and safety.”

The BEST program is part of the continuum of student services offered through District 191, preparing students ages 18-22 years old for employment, post-secondary education, personal independence, and community and vocational services. The program currently serves 46 students.

BEST students participate in courses and work experiences that align with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and the National Alliance for Secondary Education and Transition (NASET) standards. Students have a graduation plan that identifies skills they need to reach their employment, postsecondary, and independent living goals. Skills are acquired in the classroom, community, and various postsecondary settings. Linkages are made to community and program partners who follow the students into adulthood and provide ongoing support and resource coordination. Students may attend BEST for one to four years depending on their needs and attainment towards their individual goals. A team of five special education teachers, eight job coaches and a work coordinator help support and guide them on their path.

“The staff at BEST truly care about students. They go above and beyond to make sure students' social-emotional needs are being taken care of while teaching them skills to be competitively employed and able to navigate the community independently,” Middendorf said. “ When students are at BEST, they feel safe and cared about by not only the staff, but by their peers. The culture and climate at BEST is accepting of all, understanding that we all have differences and respecting each other's differences, and being each other's cheerleaders to encourage and celebrate successes.”

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