ASD opens opportunity for students to become baristas


Located on the first floor of the Anchorage School District Education Center is the Transitions Coffee Shop which helps students in the Adult Community Transition program learn workplace skills and how to make a warm cup of coffee.

Lucia Wooley, teacher aid in the ACT program, is working with several students with disabilities to hone their skills through this new opportunity.

The original idea came to mind from Katy Boneta, a K-12 vocational teacher in the ACT program, about starting another coffee shop housing a new field of learning for their students. There was a coffee shop prior to Transitions Coffee Shop but was vacant for some time before getting it back up and running in December 2017.

Before the official opening, Wooley was able to partner with Kaladis in learning how to make varieties of coffees. In turn, she was able to teach the students how to work the machines and make coffee as well.

Last week, Transitions Coffee Shop opened their windows for ASD employees and other customers who happened to stop by. They started off making complimentary drip coffee and delivering them to customers.

“None of us really worked in a coffee shop before, so it’s been a learning experience for me. It’s been really fun working with the students,” Wooley said.

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For Paul Olitk, a senior at the East High School ACT program, working the register was a different experience for him. He hopes to have his own coffee shop in the future. For the most part, he likes working with other students at the coffee shop.

Mae Celeste and Mio Smith, seniors at East High School and West High School, have also enjoyed the experience so far.

“I sometimes work at the machine and sometimes talk to the people. I go back and forth and make coffee. Then, sometimes I go up there and give them their coffee,” Celeste said.

Smith believes that working at the coffee shop is a stepping stone into becoming a doctor. He plans on going to UAA for a couple of years before heading to a different state.

“Eventually, I want to take [being a doctor] more into the military,” Smith said.

The Transitions Coffee Shop aims to help students age 18-21 years old gain people skills, team building and job maturity skills.

“When they graduate from our program, we really would like to see them out in the community working and holding down a job and being successful,” Wooley said.

In the future, Kaladi Brothers will directly work with the students by teaching new tips and tricks to making coffee.

The Transitions Coffee Shop is located on the first floor of the ASD Education Center on 5530 E. Northern Lights Blvd. The coffee shop is open weekdays from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m.