Our Impact

Serving Up Coffee With a side of Life Skills

The Shaker Schools Foundation partners with the Veale Youth Entrepreneurship Forum to support entrepreneurial ventures for our students. One example of that grant funding at work is a popular student-operated coffee cart at Shaker Heights High School.

Two days per week, the students in the multiple disability units at Shaker Heights High School team up with peers who are enrolled in the financial literacy class to sell coffee to staff members throughout the building.

Intervention Specialist Kim Roberts helped launch the entrepreneurial venture at the beginning of the 2018 -19 school year as a way to bolster the skills her students will need when they leave the High School. Those include math skills, like counting, sorting and taking inventory, along with social skills like communicating with customers.

“The goal is for them to use these skills in a real-world setting someday,” says Roberts.


At the beginning of the year, the students surveyed staff members about their coffee preferences and hosted a taste-testing in their room. The general education students helped design a logo, organize the room and helped to develop an online order form for the staff to use.

On coffee cart days, Roberts’ students know to check their assignments and grab their aprons as they get ready to deliver coffee, tea, danishes and muffins to their customers. They rotate jobs as greeter, server, barista, cashier, accountant, stocker, custodian and manager. The Veale grant funding helped them to upgrade their coffee maker and covers the cost of the coffee, aprons and other supplies.

“The one thing they love more than anything is delivering and interacting with the teachers and staff,” she says. The students who are nonverbal can communicate using augmented communication devices. The students were also proud to donate their proceeds this year to after-school clubs at the high school.

Due to its popularity, the coffee cart business will expand to five days per week next year and will unveil a new branding scheme developed by the financial literacy students: Raider Roasts.

Proceeds from the coffee cart will be used to support field trips for special education students.

Funds from the Veale Youth Entrepreneurship Forum have also helped students to create or expand their own photography and videography businesses, start a lawn care business and work with a new embroidery machine at the high school.

The Innovative Center: Another Pathway to Success

Students at the IC can take advantage of Blended Learning Labs, which offer personalized learning through a combination of online coursework and tutoring. IC students also have opportunities to improve their job readiness by cross-enrolling in career and technical prep programs at two local high schools.

Meet Four Students from the IC

Miles, Current student – During his freshman year at Shaker Heights High School, Miles was missing a lot of school due to anxiety. This caused him to fall behind in his classes – producing more anxiety. “I tried online learning at home, but it just wasn’t working for me,” says Miles. “It’s easier to do the work here because it’s a work environment and I feel compelled to do it, and it’s open and bright in here.  The teachers are very helpful.” Miles also likes being able to work at his own pace, working ahead in subjects that interest him, like math. “I’m excited to take Honors Algebra,” he says. His career goal is to become an architect or engineer.

Christian Guess, SHHS ‘18 – Christian, a standout basketball player at Shaker Heights High School, struggled academically and socially when he first transferred to Shaker as a sophomore – causing him to sit out the first half of the season. Upon his coach and guidance counselor’s recommendation, Christian enrolled in the IC, where over the next two years he improved his GPA to a B average and earned a qualifying ACT score for the NCAA. In his senior year at Shaker, Christian set the high school’s single-game scoring record with 57 points. Now, he’s enrolled at the University of Missouri where he plays for the basketball team.

Chinarra, Current student – Chinarra came to the IC as a sophomore because she was struggling in several subjects. “The High School was too chaotic for me and there’s too much drama. Being here is like home; it feels like a meditation room, and my grades are better.” Chinarra is pursuing a two-year degree in cosmetology at the same time she completes her high school coursework so that she can graduate on time with her class. Her goal is to operate her own salon one day.

Kailah Wilson, SHHS ‘18 For Kailah, completing her high school education at the IC helped pave the way for her to pursue bigger dreams. She now plans to enroll in The American Musical Dramatic Academy in Los Angeles after completing her associates degree in the arts from Tri-C.

“The IC was the best fit for me because it allowed me to be able to collaborate with other students and become friends with people I had never thought I would be friends with. I formed actual relationships with teachers which was something I struggled to do before coming to the Innovative Center,” says Kailah.

Kailah’s longer-term goal is to earn a degree in psychology with a focus on teen depression and eating disorders. “Before coming to the IC I was scared to allow myself to be vulnerable to my teachers and be open about my weak spots academically,” says Kailah. “I learned that it’s okay to need help.”

Lomond LEGO Robotics Takes Off!

The FIRST LEGO League Jr. Robotics Club has launched at Lomond Elementary! The after-school club, supported by the Shaker Schools Foundation and Rockwell Automation, features hands-on STEAM learning using LEGO WeDo Robotics kits. Four teams of six students each will work together on a challenge called Mission: Moon. Teams began by learning about the Moon and exploring what kinds of problems they would need to solve in order to live there like air, water, energy, and exercise. Now, students will design a solution to one or more of these problems using robotics and LEGO elements. The students will show what they learned at an Expo in Shaker in December.
“FIRST LEGO League at Lomond is really taking off!” says Lomond principal Carina Robinson. “The students have been working on collaborative problem solving teams and are learning about and applying the engineering design cycle. It has been great watching them be creative inquirers and I can’t wait for our first Expo!”
Lomond parent Rachel Patel, an engineer at Rockwell Automation, helped bring the program to Lomond. The Foundation is actively seeking additional community volunteers who are affiliated with Rockwell who can assist in expanding the program to other elementary schools. For more information, contact Holly Coughlin, Executive Director of the Shaker Schools Foundation, at coughlin_h@shaker.org.

The Shaker Schools Foundation is committed to providing hands-on learning opportunities for all Shaker students, with a particular emphasis on STEAM initiatives.

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