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Greenwood Middle School students inspire teachers, classmates with special cafe

Named for the school's mascot, the Woodmen Café takes orders from a student-created menu each week, then delivers on Mondays.

GREENWOOD, Ind. — Some special middle school students in Greenwood are learning new skills, thanks to a special program designed just for them.

And the students aren't the only ones learning a valuable lesson.

All you have to do is follow these students around.

"Good morning, honey," a teacher said to Tatum, one of about a dozen students going door to door, serving coffee and treats to teachers and brightening the Monday mood. 

"Thank you so much! Good job!" said a school secretary as she paid another student for her no-bake cookie. "I appreciate these. I'm going to eat these right away." 

Tatum and the others are sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students with special needs in a one-of-a-kind class that takes the learning outside of the classroom.

They are part of the Woodmen Café, named after the Greenwood mascot. The students make up a menu each week, then deliver order forms and pick them up at the end of each week. On Monday, they make deliveries.

It's part of the school corporation's QUEST program, which stands for quality, unique, empowering experiences that are student-centered and transformational. 

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The school's speech pathologist, Natalie Grissom, came up with the idea a few years ago. 

Some of the students are mostly nonverbal. Since we're still in a pandemic, they're all wearing masks, but one look at that glimmer in their eye tells you it's service with a smile. 

Credit: WTHR

"Everybody loves the Woodman Cafe," said their teacher, Regan Berry, who said the class teaches these students essential skills they'll use their whole life. "Not only are students working on social skills, but they're working on following directions and just getting to interact with people who aren't just in our classroom all day."

Assistant Principal Jennifer Brinker said the deliveries are a wonderful thing to watch.

"I absolutely love these kids," Brinker said. She knows each student's name. "It brightens up the teachers' day."

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They're important lessons for these boys and girls to learn, but Berry said equally important is the life lesson for everyone else: Don't focus on what someone can't do, focus on what they can. 

"It's a great opportunity for them to see just how capable our students are," said Berry. "It's awesome for me too, to see what my students are capable of. It just puts a huge smile on our faces."