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Brewing up coffee, life skills at Parkway West High

By: Bonnie Krueger

Parkway West marketing students and teacher Holly Weber [center]

It’s an early morning for barista Erin Clay and student manager Pierce Burns as they prep for the morning coffee rush at Parkway West High.

Clay and Burns are part of the Blue Brew Crew, which operates the in-school coffee shop each morning from 6:40-7:20 a.m. Also on the team are Garrett Walker and Clay’s twin sister, Alison. The coffee shop, known as Blue Brew, made its school debut on Aug. 20 as a marketing 2 venture.

“In our marketing 1 class, the students learn the basics,” explained marketing teacher Holly Weber. “In marketing 2, it’s about taking what we learned and put it into practice. Blue Brew is designed to be an extension of the classroom through promotions, product development, campaigns and accounting.”

Burns participates in Blue Brew’s daily operations but it is the advertising aspect of marketing that interests him most.

“We only get to advertise about once a week, so the coffee shop itself is really the advertising,” he explained. Advertising has included an article that ran in the Pathfinder school newspaper as well as, a full-length infomercial. The visibility is paying off.  All profits are put back into the business and into West Chest, which is designed to meet unmet academic or physical needs of the student body. The Blue Brew Crew hope to collect at least $1,000 to give to West Chest this school year.

In the classroom, marketing students assess each day’s sales, inventory supplies and determine if any products should be added. Recently, the student’s added hot chocolate and the seasonal favorite, pumpkin spice latte, to the coffee shop’s menu, which also includes mocha and vanilla lattes and iced or hot tea.

Working in the shop also has practical applications.

Clay, a senior, applied for the volunteer position to earn community service hours for the National Honor Society. Similarly, students, such as Burns, may use the volunteer hours for the A+ program, which provides post-secondary education scholarship money.

Weber successfully ran a similar program at Parkway North High before transferring to West two years ago.

“Not only are they learning back-office operations, but this provides authentic work experience,” Weber said. “Workers are learning to be nimble and quick on their feet.”

Weber’s marketing students aren’t the only ones involved with the coffee shop. Special Education teacher Wendy Zieleskiewicz uses it as a training ground for students in her essential skills class. The coffee shop offers a platform for students to practice workplace and life skills by filling and delivering drink orders for teachers during the first period of the day.

“I like the activity, said Geoff, an essential skills student. “I get to talk to the people who I deliver to, and it’s fun to deliver.”

For nonverbal student Vivi, the coffee shop gives her an opportunity to engage adults using an interactive voice touchpad.

“This is such a great program that can touch many lives,” Weber said. She added that the next step for the Blue Brew is to expand and build a permanent structure in the school.


Essential skills student Geoff fills an order for delivery.


Essential Skills student Vivi delivers coffee to teacher assistant Matt West, with support from her speech language teacher Michelle Stein.


Barista Erin Clay takes a coffee order from a student at the Blue Brew.


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