Students learn life skills at the Von Stu-Bean Jolt Cafe

Local News

PEORIA, Ill. — Students are learning the ins and outs of a business during the school day. Von Steuben Middle School teacher, Emily Dawson, created a student-run coffee shop called Von Stu-Bean Cafe.

Dawson and her teaching assistant used money from their own pockets to teach kids life skills while giving them a hands-on experience.

A group of 6th-8th graders are learning key school subjects like math and english and applying them to everyday life. What they learn directly correlates with what those in service occupations need to know.

This cafe operates out of Dawson’s classroom. They have a Keurig to make coffee, crates of creams and sugars and plenitude of snacks.

Staff in the school and next door at the Peoria Public Schools administration building, place several orders throughout the day. It’s as easy as opening a google form on your phone, selecting your choice of drink or snack and hitting go.

At set times, the students assemble with their aprons on and head out the door to begin making deliveries. The staff are very supportive. Friday, PPS superintendent, Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat, ordered iced coffees for her entire office.

The students take their jobs seriously. Their energy is refreshing to both staff and their teachers.

The fact that they are excited and proud of their own transformation or when they have their “aha” moments they are excited when they have completed a task that’s what drives us.


Emily Dawson, Von Steuben Middle School Teacher

Emily Wright, one of the cafe’s baristas, said this opportunity has changed her life. She did not attend her previous school regularly.

“The reason why I didn’t go to school before is because I had a lot of bullies that were harrassing me, trying to fight me,” Wright said.

Wright said transferring to Von Steuben and being in the life skills class changed her mindest about school and gave her a new found confidence.

I have a lot of new friends that have faith in me and have confidence in me and tell me I can do it everyday,” she said.

Before, she didn’t know how to count money, now she does it with flying colors. Working at the cafe requires you to learn how to count change and dollars received from sales.

“We’ve had extreme growth since we started the cafe,” Dawson said. “The staff for the classroom and I are extremely proud of the students. It makes us want to come to work with the students as their learning and incorporating the new skills that we’re teaching them.”

Dawson said students in this program are not necessarily training to go to college, but to have a job and be independent. Beyond business skills, she also teaches them about hygiene among other things.

“I want them when they leave my room to be able to take care of their own hygiene, do their own laundry and be able to do some tasks and eventually get a job,” she said.

Wright said she loves her teachers because they showed she’s capable of accomplishing more than she thought. Now, she hopes to continue making her mother proud.

“When she told me she was proud of me I just wanted to cry because that’s all I wanted from her [to know] that she was proud of me, Wright said.

All the money earned from cafe sales goes toward community based instructional trips for the students. These can be student trips to the grocery stores to purchase more food and supplies in order to keep the business up and running.

Dawson said she thinks Von Stu-Bean Jolt Cafe could compete with Starbucks.

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