NEWTON, Kan. (KSNW) – A group of Newton High School students is serving coffee with a purpose.
“I think it really helps the kids feel a sense of accomplishment and connection,” said teacher Heather Christner.
Christner is in her twelfth year of teaching, however, this is her second year helping with a student-run coffee cart known as the Railer Roasters.
Railer Roasters gives students, many who have developmental disabilities, the chance to interact with their peers and teachers while learning new skills.
“It gives them an opportunity to develop their soft skills and vocational skills as they are preparing for life after high school,” Christner explained. “It gets them out in the building and gets them building relationships with other people.”
Payne Claassen, 14, was made for the Railer Roasters. His spunky personality mixed with his no-fear attitude makes Friday’s coffee cart a little bit sweeter for everyone involved.
“My favorite job is to make coffee,” said Claassen.
Claassen told KSN it makes him “happy” to serve drinks to teachers, adding, “they will see me and be happy.”
Each week Newton High School teachers place their drink orders. On Fridays, the Railer Roasters, often led by Claassen, make, label, and deliver them.
“The response from the school has been overwhelmingly supportive. The teachers have just jumped right in to support the kids by placing their orders and just being intentional about greeting the kids when they come around to deliver their drinks,” Christner explained. “We did a presale of punch cards so that teachers could buy drinks ahead of time and we had probably 25 teachers jump on that. They love these kids and they love to be able to connect with them whenever possible.”
Senior Liana Alley said Railer Roasters makes her feel important.
“It’s just like so much fun,” said Alley.
KSN asked Claassen if he has plans to open his own coffee shop or coffee cart after graduation.
He exclaimed, “yes!”