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RACINE – The Rebel Roasters can be found making their way through the halls of Horlick High School,  2119 Rapids Drive, serving refreshments and light snacks via a new mobile coffee cart.

Rebel Roasters
The Rebel Roasters learn valuable skills like how to use a cash register and how to use math in real life situations. Abby Wendt works on collect change for a customer. – Credit: Emma Widmar
Rebel Roasters
Rebel Roaster Lamont Lucket reviews the menu with a faculty member. Coffee orders can be placed ahead of time or ordered as the coffee cart makes it way through the school. Credit: Emma Widmar
Rebel Roasters
Horlick High School student and member of the Rebel Roasters smiles while making the rounds delivering coffee to staff. – Credit: Emma Widmar

The mobile coffee cart is new to Horlick High School but was inspired by a coffee shop that operates out of Case High School.

The Rebel Roasters consists of students with disabilities, who have become baristas during the school day, all in the name of preparing for life after high school.

The opportunity to sell coffee, tea, hot chocolate and muffins is implemented through the FASC1 (Functional and Adaptive Self-Contained) Vocational Work Program. The Rebel Roasters consist of students in grades 9-12.

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Cyndi Kamm helps students provide change for a customer. She teaches the students on the go when needed. – Credit: Emma Widmar
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Ray Cushman, an educator at Horlick High School, assists Abby Wendt at the coffee cart. – Credit: Emma Widmar
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Educators can use a reusable mug when getting their fix of morning coffee. – Credit: Emma Widmar

A morning pick-me-up

The Rebel Roasters have a focus on serving the educators and staff during the morning hours of the school day.

Teachers are welcome to place pre-orders, while other adults in the building are able to stop the cart wherever they see the Rebel Roasters in the halls. They even have a punch card program available for loyal customers.

There’s a rotating schedule that assigns students to different tasks, on different days. This allows students to get acclimated to a schedule and how to work a shift at a real job.

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The Rebel Roasters operate on a rotating schedule so that everyone has a chance to participate and to get involved in the coffee cart duties. – Credit: Emma Widmar
Rebel Roasters
Blake Willabee smiles for a photo next to the mobile coffee cart. – Credit: Emma Widmar
Rebel Roasters
The Rebel Roasters have a punch card program that mimics scenarios that would take place at a business or restaurant outside of school. – Credit: Emma Widmar

Teaching life skills

It’s not just a job that happens in the hallways of Horlick. In the classroom, Ray Cushman and Cydni Kamm, two Special Education teachers, and numerous Educational assistants work to instill the proper tools and skills to help their student’s business function with ease.

Rebel Roasters
The Rebel Roasters deliver coffee via a mobile coffee cart throughout the school to educators. The opportunity helps to teach life skills to prepare the students with disabilities for life after high school. – Credit: Emma Widmar
Rebel Roasters
The Rebel Roasters and their educational assistants walk the halls of Horlick High school. They make various stops to prepare and deliver coffee orders. – Credit: Emma Widmar

“Rebel Roasters has taught the kids a lot of community-based programming skills,” says Cushman. “We want the kids to leave Horlick High School with job skills, that’s our vision.”

The students are receptive to learning these skills. It’s something they can apply to future situations too.

“They’re learning how to do a cash register job. They’re learning how to be a barista and make coffee. They’re learning how to take orders from people. There are jobs out there for them to have,” explains Cushman.

Another skill they are focused on is time management and math skills. They learn how to handle money and how to count supplies.

“Every week we do the questions regarding the clock. We look at charts. We do Kahoot!” says Educational Assistant, Mary Lezala.

Real experiences

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Angelina Ortiz finishes making her coffee order. She converses with a staff member who ordered from the coffee cart. – Credit: Emma Widmar
Rebel Roasters
The Rebel Roasters is a collaborative effort between students with disabilities at Horlick High School. – Credit: Emma Widmar
Rebel Roasters
Angelina Ortiz and Abby Wendt work together to prepare a coffee order at Horlick High School. – Credit: Emma Widmar

Angelina Ortiz, a student, explained that her favorite task is pouring the cream into the coffee, but overall she likes making money for the class.

All the proceeds from the Rebel Roasters’ sales go towards their community-based instructional outings. 

“We’re trying to give these kids real-life experiences. We can give them an outlet to go out in the community, with a job coach if need be, but they’ll have a skill that they can work on and use,” comments Cushman.

Students with disabilities can remain in high school until they are 21 years old, this includes the 18- to 21-year-old Transition Program available through Racine Unified School District.

The coffee cart is helping to identify the student’s skills, jobs, techniques, and approaches that work best for them. This helps establish a foundation for the next phase of their education or job.

Confident boosting

“Abby Wendt and Lamont have really come out of their shells. They want to go to work every day. They’re dressing for it. They’re making decisions at school to focus in class,” Cushman explains.

The difference in the student’s attitudes, since the start of the coffee cart, has been remarkable.

“They’re learning manners and taking turns,” says Lezala.

Every coffee is delivered with a smile and with a purpose behind each pour.

“They’re just being happy. It’s pure joy,” says Lezala.

District-wide goal

“Shout out to Curtis Walzer out at Case High School,” says Cushman. “He gave us a little bit of framework here just to get our feet off the ground and running.”

Walzer helped set the foundation and get the ball rolling for the Rebels. Stay tuned to learn about the EagleDashers and other programs within RUSD on the Racine County Eye.

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