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The Unique Blend Cafe teaches students how to brew more than hot coffee, but life skills

Posted: 1:48 PM, Aug 31, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-31 16:50:43-04

DELANO, Calif. — A hot cup of coffee is brewing at Pioneer School in Delano. Students in a special education class learn how to take orders, make specialty drinks and deliver to the teachers.

Jessica Villalobos, a special education teacher at Pioneer School said the Unique Blend Cafe opened four years ago after the class received a grant which allowed them to purchase equipment and supplies for the student-run coffee shop.

"Another teacher and I had talked about trying to implement some type of program in our special education system, that was going to help promote job skills because unfortunately, that's not something that's really focused on as they get older," said Villalobos.

The cafe provides the students with the opportunity to gain vocational skills from counting money, receiving the many orders and to blending iced coffee. The cafe is open each school day, and the cafe often receives as many as 30 orders.

"Sometimes we get a lot of orders then they have to figure out, okay. Is it green? Is it cucumber water? Is it yellow, is it lemonade?" said Felicia Garcia, a healthcare living skills aid at Pioneer School.

The program is a part of a required elective that is a part of a life skills course.

The proceeds that the cafe earns are applied to the budget to allow the teachers to continue purchasing supplies, but the purpose of the cafe is more than gaining a profit.

"It's so important in their lives and it's impacted them in such a positive way that when we talk to them about what they can do in the future, a lot of them say they want to be a Barista, and that's a real possibility," said Villalobos.