Special education students learn through coffee shop

The "Top Dog Cafe" helps Brownsburg students connect while they learn.

One area high school has found an engaging and popular way to connect with students, while looking to advance the future of special education students.

It has all the trappings of your popular coffee shop - the machines to brew your favorite beverage and the non-stop hustle for a product in big demand. But this isn't your standard café. It's located right in the middle of Brownsburg High School.

Jack Combs is a BHS freshman who works in the café.

"Some mornings can be hectic, but it's really fun," he said.

What started as an idea to simply deliver coffee orders to students and teachers has evolved into the "Top Dog Cafe," where teachers have assembled Keurig machines and all the supplies. It's been a major hit for students on both sides of the counter.

"I'm learning how to run a café and business management," Combs said.

"We're able to teach students job skills before we place them in the community. You have a better appreciation when you go into a restaurant if you've worked in a restaurant, I think," said Family and Consumer Science teacher Beth Oburn.

"If you're a coffee lover, then you just love it. Love the energy and the kids," said freshman Courtney Scott.    

There are similarities to one of the best-known coffee operations around. For example, the sizes at Starbucks come in tall, grande or venti. At the home of the Bulldogs, they come in the Pup Cup, the Fido, the Tail Wagger and the Big Dog.

The café is open for a little more than an hour each school morning and the Culinary Arts Foundation program says it's an effective way of helping special ed students develop skills.

"Our students love working with the general education students. We've brought in the art students and they've done the mural on the wall," said Natalie Krefetz is the Special Education Life Skills Teacher. 

Oburn says what stands out most to her is the collaboration.

"Everyone is excited to be involved in it and they're willing to work even harder," she said.

Students even take orders via phone and email using an iPad. Teachers here say they're overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response from students and staff.

Every week, we take a close look at What's Cool in School. If you want Bruce to feature something cool at your school, contact him at bkopp@wthr.com.