- Associated Press - Monday, February 8, 2016

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. (AP) - The staff of Sheboygan Falls High School’s Falcon Java Roost, composed entirely of students from the school’s special education program, functions like a well-oiled machine.

At this school-based coffee bar, an abundance of pats on the back, high fives and praises are exchanged between the workers, as well as the occasional fit of giggles.

Trevor Teumer, one of the student workers, clasps his hands and leans over the counter, nodding in approval of his peers fulfilling drink orders at either side of him.

“Working here is a formula,” Teumer said. “It is definitely a formula.”

But, it is a science that the staff appears to have mastered, Sheboygan Press Media (http://shebpr.es/1KXQti9 ) reported. The team works together on almost every drink order, handing cups down the line with each student contributing in a different way to top off the brew.

Deb Wehrman, special education teacher, said the Falcon Java Roost first started operating in 2009. The idea for a coffee shop run by the school’s special education students first came to be after Director of Student Services Ann Roy heard at a conference about schools undertaking similar initiatives.

After teachers and administrators at Sheboygan Falls High School researched the idea, a partnership was formed with Torke Coffee Roasting Company in Sheboygan, whose representatives Wehrman describes as “incredibly nice people.”

From there, the school was able to open the Falcon Java Roost and set a goal of equipping students with work experience and all the other skills that can be acquired through running a coffee shop, such as maintaining a sanitary space and practicing social skills.

When student workers do make a mistake, Wehrman believes it is important for her to be “authentic about it.”

“You can’t simply cover it up because future employers won’t operate like that,” Wehrman said. “The key is to build a relationship with the students, so they know you aren’t trying to hurt them, but to help them.”

The Falcon Java Roost opens at 7:30 a.m. to help students and staff get their coffee fix before morning classes each day. When asked if it is ever hard getting up so early for work, the student workers were appalled at the thought.

“Not at all,” student Mckayla Nack exclaimed. “Working is always fun!”

Besides Teumer and Nack, other staff members at the Falcon Java Roost include Cheye Owens, Nick Ditter, Z Krause and Skyler Peterson.

Wehrman is pleased with how the Falcon Java Roost has positively influenced her students’ confidence levels.

“I think my students can truly see how they’re succeeding at the Falcon Java Roost and can be a part of this community through their work there,” Wehrman said.

The Falcon Java Roost has not only benefited its workers, but also the greater community with the students’ commitment to consistently donating approximately 25 percent of proceeds to organizations such as the Sheboygan County Humane Society and Sharon S. Richardson Hospice, among others, as first reported by The Sheboygan Falls News.

When asked about their favorite parts of the job, all students responded that “helping people” through their donations tops the list.

Aside from its contributions to the greater community, Wehrman said she believes the Falcon Java Roost is strengthening relationships and fostering greater levels of acceptance toward people with developmental disabilities in the smaller community of Sheboygan Falls High School.

The coffee shop has allowed close bonds to form between the students in the special education program and other students at the school after long chats over hot cups of joe.

“Everyone is just so accepting, and that’s the cool part,” Wehrman said. “Acceptance is the key to success; you have to be accepted in order to grow. We’re still not making millions at the Falcon Java Roost, but we’re making experiences.”

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Information from: Sheboygan Press Media, http://www.sheboygan-press.com

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