What began as a coffee delivery service twice a week has blossomed into a full-fledged student-run coffee shop at Chagrin Falls High School.
Tiger Perk, as it is fondly known, is a pre-vocational job skills training program for students in grades 7-12. The idea for this coffee service formed in 2017 and president Tiger Prep, Steve Thompson, offered the organization’s support for the project. Tiger Prep is a parent organization that supports programming for students who have learning differences. Since coming to fruition, Tiger Perk has benefited the Chagrin Falls School community in many ways.
During the school year, Tiger Perk was open twice a week during the intervention/enrichment periods of the day between 9:15 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Student workers received online orders from high school, middle school and intermediate school faculty and staff. They then filled and delivered each individual order. Behind the scenes, students restocked supplies, cleaned the prep area, took inventory and balanced the billing process.
Throughout the District, the program has attracted more than 300 repeat customers.
The program offers pre-vocational skills to students including language arts standards when interacting with customers, mathematics and social studies skills through financial literacy, and the integration of IEP goals such as communication, transition, and adaptive living. Not only do students feel a sense of independence, but increase their ability to follow multi-step directions and feel an overall sense of pride.
One Tiger Perk customer said, “The students who bring me my beverages normally struggle to engage in conversation with me. However, when they are delivering orders, they are suddenly full of conversation and look me right in the eyes and talk.”
Another customer stated, “The skills being developed go beyond the classroom, the standards and any test. The pride and independence I have seen is amazing.”
The success of the program and current limitations are what fueled administrators and those involved with Tiger Perk to expand the shop’s offerings.
A Need for Expansion
The space that was used in previous years was overcrowded and the location of Tiger Perk was outside of the natural flow of traffic for the middle and high school.
The plan for an entire coffee shop came from a previous project in 2006 when the high school kitchen was remodeled. That portion of the remodel had to be scrapped due to lack of funds but has been revitalized with the idea of Tiger Perk.
The design was proposed in December 2018, solicited for bids in February, given School Board approval in March, and a contractor selected in April. Construction has been ongoing this summer and will be completed before the students return for classes in August.
The new space for Tiger Perk is adjacent to the High School Commons area and will include the coffee shop itself as well as a “café connection area” with modern furniture as a place for coffee drinkers to gather. The new renovations will include an area for preparation and deliveries, display shelves and more room for storage.
Psychologist at Chagrin Falls Schools Jennifer Bencko said, “We are excited to provide more opportunities for pre-vocational job skills training as well as to develop an integrated work environment where students of all abilities come together to provide a service at our high school.”
Donors Give Generous Support
The total cost of the project comes to $113,500 which covers the design budget, construction, furniture and project contingency. To help deter the costs, several organizations have donated to the cause. The Chagrin Falls PTO will give up to $40,000 on an as-needed basis. The group said, “We are excited to be a part of this project and look forward to its completion.”
The Chagrin Falls Educational Foundation and the Educational Foundation Student Board offered a monetary gift in the combined amount of $13,808.13. The Tiger Prep group gave $25,000 and the Boosters offered $15,000. Both Millstone Management Group and London Road Electric have donated their services for general contract/ management fees as well as sub-contract work of electrical supplies and labor for the construction.
At the November Board of Education meeting, S&D Capital Financial Advisors in Chagrin Falls donated $500 to Chagrin Falls Schools to kickstart the coffee shop construction. Financial Advisor for S&D Capital Financial Advisors Frank Dobnikar, said, “Giving back to the communities we serve is part of our firm culture and a value our clients appreciate.”
New School Year, New Coffee Shop
The future of the Tiger Perk program is bright as the employees plan to sell bagels and other travel snacks in addition to their coffee as well as expand their customer base. They also plan to intertwine the shop with the curriculum like business courses and elective credit for students with disabilities to form life skills. They plan to act as a delivery service as well as offer customers the option to walk-up and order. They will be open daily from 7:40 a.m. until 9:30 a.m., giving students several opportunities to get involved.
Another Tiger Perk regular praised the program saying, “I know the purpose of the program is to teach needed skills to students involved. The bigger picture is the delivering of the drinks with a smile. The connection is invaluable to both the staff and the students.”