Barista business giving special needs students independence and job skills

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -- In the halls of Wausau East High School a group of students is gaining independence and job skills while running a business.

"They're starting to believe in themselves. They're starting to think 'Oh, I can do this,” explained teacher Anissa Walter.

She's the organizer for Jack's Joe. The mobile coffee business, run by students with special needs, is a play on the name of the school mascot-- the Lumberjacks.

Students, like Elizabeth and Sarah are learning how to be a team, manage inventory and handle money. Skills that will prepare them for the real world.

The business was created through a grant from Reach for the Stars. Since last spring, the rolling coffee shop is a favorite of staff and students.

The coffee is donated by Tom Belongia, owner at Biggby Coffee.

He said he was happy to be apart of the project.

"The teachers had seen a video online of a similar program and they were actually at Biggby Coffee and brainstorming and they asked, 'Is this something you could actually help us out with?' I though it was such a beautiful wonderful idea and it fit,” Belongia recalled.

And while it's work for the students that run Jack's Joe, is also much more.

"Seeing the customers smile at us everyday. Waiting for us and saying good morning,” said student-employee Brayton Davpert.

Many other students also had a hand in making sure the business was successful. The mobile coffee cart was designed by the manufacturing class and another class designed the logo.