Colorado Springs high school’s coffee shop brings students together

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — It’s a different type of coffee shop.

“It helps them with money skills, customer service skills. It gives them a basis for a job in the future as a barista, or there’s some programs in the community they can build upon the skills they learn here,” said Noelle Mulkey, special education department chair for Palmer High School.

Palmer Perk was opened nine years ago at Palmer. It was made to increase skills for students with special needs.

“We help the customers and we tell them the price and we give them what they ordered,” said 17-year-old Jared Stalker, a junior at Palmer.

Teachers said it’s a way to get special ed students to interact with other students and build skills they can use after high school.

“I think historically, kids with special needs, especially the kids with significant needs, have been looked at in a manner where they can’t do instead of what they can do,” Mulkey said.

Teachers said students are scheduled to work at the coffee shop during certain periods of the day. As long as they are done with their work, they can get work experience at Palmer Perk.

“Typically they’ve been pigeonholed into cleaning jobs or food services jobs, and there’s so much more out there that they’re able and capable of doing. And most people like coffee, so we though that may be a good way for them to be more involved in the community when they’re out of here and be seen as citizens that are able to give to the community just like the rest of us,” Mulkey said.

Palmer Perk is open from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. at Palmer’s library. They serve snacks like cookies and chips, and, of course, coffee.

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